Mercury column – July 2018

Nestled in the leafy Buckinghamshire countryside, the Prime Minister’s country retreat at Chequers has witnessed many historic occasions. Think of those meetings between former Prime Ministers and American or Russian Presidents at the height of the Cold War as Britain played a key role in securing peace for Europe.

Today, another important summit takes place as ministers gather to discuss and agree on the next phase of our Brexit negotiations, what our relationship will be with the rest of Europe and what trading arrangements we want. The clear direction we are setting will be revealed in a White Paper confirming our vision for a future outside the European Union.

The Prime Minister has recently set out another clear vision – this time for our National Health Service. As we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the NHS  we are re-affirming our commitment to our most loved national institution and this Government’s number one priority in public services. A new five-year budget settlement will see the NHS receive an extra £600 million a week in funding by the end of this period.

The extra funding will come in part from the fact we will no longer pay EU membership fees after the transition period, in part from economic growth, and the country will also be asked to contribute a bit more towards the NHS in a fair and balanced way.

And rather than bureaucrats or politicians deciding how this money is spent, the plan will be led by clinicians – ensuring we have the right staff numbers and skills to deliver the care of the future. The plan will deliver new services and improved outcomes for patients. For example, new priorities could include ambitions to raise cancer survival rates to match the averages of France and Germany, move us towards new clinically defined access standards for mental health that are as ambitious as those in physical health, and ensure maternity safety is amongst the best in Europe

Do you remember all that election scaremongering? Let’s face it we hear the same warning before every election from some quarters. Yet, we have a Government actually delivering a massive change in NHS funding – surely it’s finally time to stop trying to make the NHS a political football?