Ranil Jayawardena MP—Opinion Piece May 2019

It goes without saying that one of the most precious things to each of us is our health. That’s why we have a health service which is available to everybody, paid for through taxation, and free at the point of use. We are encouraged more and more to take responsibility for our own health through eating well and getting more exercise but, when we do need it, we know the NHS is there for us. That’s why I felt it was important that local improvements to the health service were part of Our Plan for North East Hampshire.

At the beginning of this year, HM Government committed to spending an extra £20.5 billion a year in the NHS in real terms by 2023/24. That’s £394 million extra every week — even more than the figure quoted on the side of a certain bus a few years ago. But it isn’t about simply throwing money at the health service. With an ageing population — who have more complex care needs for longer — and a falling birth rate, it is more important than ever that every penny of your taxes is spent wisely, which is why this funding was released as part of the NHS Long Term Plan to transform patient care. Improving local services are part of this change.

I frequently hear from residents that they are not necessarily opposed to new homes being built, but they want the right homes, built in the right places, at the right time, with the right infrastructure. They understandably worry about the pressures on local infrastructure, such as schools, roads, and — crucially — GP surgeries. I was delighted that, as part of the NHS Long Term Plan, £4.5 billion will be going into local primary and community care. This is a big investment and will make a real difference to the care you receive over the next five years. But, as ever, there is more to do.

Basingstoke & Deane Borough Council, part of which is in North East Hampshire, have really taken ownership of this infrastructure issue by building new GP surgeries themselves and inviting doctors to use them. They’re able to do this because local authorities can borrow much more cheaply than private businesses, which is legally what GP practices are. This is a win-win for the community because GPs get modern surgeries, communities get enough clinicians locally, and the council gains a long-term income to help fund local services. I hope Hart District Council will follow this great example – and make it even better.

I’m interested in your thoughts on this though. How would you like to see local services improve, and how would you like to see that achieved? You can email me on email@ranil.uk or come to one of my regular ‘Tell Ranil’ events. Details are available here.