Health crisis has made me appreciate the NHS

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I’m having to write this column from my hospital bed after being told I need heart bypass surgery. So firstly I would like to thank the doctors and nurses and all the NHS staff, both at Queen Alexandra in Cosham and Southampton General for their hard work on my behalf and for the wonderful care they have given me.

My heartfelt thanks also for everyone’s good wishes and support. Having a crisis in your health makes you appreciate what a wonderful resource the NHS is.

While convalescing, I saw a documentary on Tony Blair which reminded me that he had to bounce Gordon Brown into bringing NHS spending up to the European average by announcing it on live TV!

The coalition government may be stormy, but it has nothing on divisions in the Labour government!

The Lib Dems campaigned hard for that extra money for the NHS. And frankly it is to Labour and Blair’s credit that they did indeed ultimately put it in.

Perhaps more than ever, I appreciate people’s concerns over recent NHS reforms. Money will be tight, but I think the government was right to commit to a real-terms increase in NHS spending.

I can report from first-hand experience that the NHS, despite some doomsayers, is still here and functioning well. We must keep it that way. My colleague Dr Peter Brand, the former Lib Dem MP for the Isle of Wight and also a GP, campaigned hard for more to be spent on public health and prevention.

He likened the situation to having an ambulance at the bottom of a cliff where the fence was broken at the top. You would go and mend the fence.

Unfortunately one of the meetings I’ve missed while in hospital was the first of Portsmouth’s new Health and Wellbeing Board.

I’m not one to blame people for their own ill health. Disease and illness can strike at anyone. But it’s possible to tilt the odds in people’s favour.

Life expectancy in areas in Portsmouth is 10 years shorter than the national average. I hope the new board can really get to grips with that.