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A public health service we all rely on

I had never really had to use the NHS much until two years ago. But that all changed in June 2015 when I found a lump in my breast. (Which reminds me – everyone, please learn to check breasts. This is the best way of picking up cancer and non-cancerous lumps needing treatment)

I had brilliant care. I had an appointment with my GP within two weeks, and a follow-up appointment with a breast cancer specialist within a further two weeks.

On the day I was diagnosed, I was in a very special place – the Bristol Breast Care Centre (BBCC), up at Southmead hospital. The atmosphere was calm, the staff all specialised solely in breast cancer and my surgeon was the person who diagnosed me. We subsequently had a chat about how important the Labour government 1997-2010 had been in supporting the setting up of BBCC.

By the time I left the BBCC, I’d been referred to an oncologist to plan my non-surgical treatment, and met the specialist breast cancer nurse who was to be my point of contact throughout treatment and beyond. In fact she has continued to say I can contact her any time.

I met the oncologist the same day and had a treatment plan worked out quickly.

Now, if you know anyone who has had breast cancer in the last few years in Bristol, that’s standard – but it was not always like that.

The Labour government of 1997-2010 introduced the UK’s first national plan to tackle cancer. In that plan, the government committed the NHS to maximum waiting times for referral, diagnosis and treatment. It’s of great credit to our health workers that these targets are often still met – but no thanks to the Tory government.

This Tories are hurting the NHS so badly and it hurts me to see it, when it has saved my life and the lives of so many other people I care about. They and the Liberal Democrats imposed a costly top-down reorganisation which nobody voted for. They then imposed a public sector pay freeze, ended bursaries for nurse training and cut local government funding for social care. All of which has kept people in hospital when they could be discharged, adding to the strains on hospitals and health care generally. Dedicated staff are having to work harder and harder with no increase in pay.

When it comes to this election, there is a clear choice: a Labour government that invests in an NHS which works for staff and patients, or a Tory government that will carry on starving our health and social care service of the funds it needs.

The way to reinstate the public, not-for-profit NHS we all know and love and to integrate it with the social care system, is to elect a Labour government.

A Labour government would reverse the privatisation of the NHS and return the health service fully into public control.

We would reinstate the powers of the Secretary of State for Health to have overall responsibility and introduce a new legal duty on them to ensure that excess private profits are not made out of the NHS at the expense of patient care.

We would also halt the NHS sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) process – this has brought neighbouring health care trusts to work closer together but unfortunately has not provided the funds needed, leading to threatened closures.

We would guarantee the rights of EU staff working in health and social care, scrap the NHS pay cap and reintroduce the bursaries for health degree courses.

We would introduce a National Care Service to create a sustainable future for social care and give every older person dignity they deserve and care they need.

Labour built the NHS. And in this election, we are the party with a credible plan to invest in – and protect – a public health service that we all rely on.

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