22nd Jan, 2018

WESTMINSTER DIARY: By Dame Caroline Spelman

WESTMINSTER DIARY

As we all return to work after the Christmas period I hope that readers have had an enjoyable and restful break. However, for those who were working over the Christmas period; particularly everyone in our emergency services, I would like to reiterate the message of thanks the Prime Minister gave a fortnight ago.

As the New Year commenced, I found myself taking a family member to the Urgent Care Centre at Solihull Hospital. Whilst we would have preferred to have avoided such circumstances, it was good to see for myself what the service is like at this time of year.

Having visited the Urgent Care Centre when it first opened in January 2017, I am aware that the service is still relatively new and this New Year has been the first time they have experienced the inevitable rise in demand that coincides with the winter period. That said, I found that the waiting time was 3 ½ hours – within the 4 hour target waiting time, and I am pleased to say that we were seen by a doctor even quicker than that. In addition to this, the staff were unfailing courteous and good natured despite higher demand and the atmosphere was calm and orderly. Well done Solihull Urgent Care Team!

Nevertheless, I appreciate that not everyone’s experience of the NHS this winter was the same as mine. However it is important to consider how we all have a part to play in making sure that services are used well and that we are accessing the right services when we need them. Not only does this help take pressure off the system but ensures that those with the greatest need can get help at the right time.

Despite misconceptions, the NHS has been more prepared than ever this winter. A record amount of funding been made available to support the delivery of services and for the first time, a new national emergency pressures panel intervened to respond to emerging or challenging new circumstances.

It is also important to remember that today, 30p out of every £1 spent by the government is afforded to the NHS – more than ever before. But with a growing older population and increased demand for services, it is clear that together we must look closely at how we can provide a more sustainable solution to the pressures the NHS faces during peak times.

Dame Caroline Spelman MP

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