Off The Fence: Caroline Dinenage backs the great work of the NHS and its successes

The accident and emergency department at Queen Alexandra Hospital
The accident and emergency department at Queen Alexandra Hospital
A Scalextric track. Picture: WikiCommons

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The NHS has been ranked the best healthcare system of 11 wealthy countries by the independent think tank The Commonwealth Fund. For the second time in a row, the UK was found to offer the best, safest and most affordable healthcare, ahead of countries such as Australia and the Netherlands.

This is a huge credit to the hardworking men and women on the frontline, who continue to deliver outstanding care in often difficult circumstances. The ranking also reflects the strong fundamentals of the NHS, which will always offer care free at the point of need, regardless of ability to pay.

Having recently attended A&E at Queen Alexandra Hospital with my youngest son, I can testify to the compassion and hard-work of NHS staff, which as a worried mum makes all the difference.

As part of a group of local MPs and healthcare professionals working to find solutions to the existing problems at QA Hospital, I am not blind to the organisation’s faults. But it is making progress, and you certainly can’t fault the dedication or professionalism of its nurses and doctors.

Much recent debate has focused on what needs to be done to protect the sustainability of the NHS. With people living longer than ever before, demand for NHS and social care services has never been higher.

The Government is committed to meeting new challenges, and I am encouraged by its pledge to invest an extra £10 billion in the NHS by 2020/21. Record investment in mental health services is also to be welcomed.

I recently met with representatives from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and was pleased to learn that Fareham and Gosport CCG now spends over 13% of its total allocated budget on mental health care, compared with 11.5% in 2015/16.

However, there is of course more work to do, and improving healthcare services is as much about finding more effective ways of working, as it is about increased investment.

I’m really pleased that Gosport was chosen by the Department of Health to be part of their Vanguard project to improve community care in March 2015, and I meet regularly with project leaders, Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust and local GPs to follow the progress of this innovative initiative.

The Vanguard project aims to simplify and improve access to healthcare locally, by cutting unnecessary red tape and ensuring that people see the right healthcare professional as quickly as possible.

One example of the Vanguard pilot is the Same Day Access Service on offer at Gosport War Memorial Hospital, where a Multi-speciality Community Provider hub has been established. The Hub integrates different healthcare specialists into one centralised hub with the aim of cutting GP waiting times, reducing hospital admissions and move people out of hospitals more quickly. You can read more about this here.

Localised projects such as this, which respond directly to the specific needs of different communities, will be absolutely crucial to ensuring the NHS builds on existing strengths, and continues to deliver world-class care