This week the NHS Funding Bill received its Second Reading in the House of Commons. Under the bill, the Government has committed to increase investment in the NHS with a £33.9 billion increase in cash terms by 2023/24.
It is one of the first pieces of domestic legislation to go through Parliament since this government took office, demonstrating our commitment to place health and social care at the heart of our domestic agenda.
This legislation will help to ensure that our treasured health service has everything it needs to deliver world-class care. The bill will place a legal duty on the government to guarantee a minimum level of spending every year, rising to £148.5 billion by 2024. Crucially, it will not seek to limit the NHS in deciding how funding is spent and where –that is a decision that is best made by clinicians based on the needs of each local area.
Earlier this month I visited the Royal Town’s Cottage Hospital and met Richard Kirby, the Chief Executive of the Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. I was pleased to hear details about plans to develop the hospital into a secondary care hub. The revamped Cottage Hospital will help support our growing elderly population and ensure that more people can remain independent and live in their own home for longer.
As part of our Long-Term Plan for the NHS we want to ensure that our health service remains on a sustainable footing and can meet the needs of a growing elderly population. We will create 50 million more appointments in GP surgeries so that patients get the care they deserve. By 2024-25 we will deliver 6,000 more GPs and 6,000 more primary care professionals which will help to reduce waiting times.
At the heart of our Long-Term Plan is the notion that prevention is better than cure, marking a clear shift towards our health service promoting good health not just curing illness. Alongside an increase in funding, there is a clear commitment to improving detection, with more targeted screening and Rapid Access Diagnostic Centres. These measures will help to ensure that in 10 years’ time 55,000 more people will survive cancer each year, and 100,000 heart attacks, strokes and dementia cases will have been prevented.
I have long campaigned to ensure that we treat mental health on the same footing as physical health and I welcome our commitment to boost mental health funding by at least £2.3 billion over the next five years, which will help transform mental health services. There is still much more to do, but we are moving in the right direction and this increase in funding represents a significant step forward.
Next Thursday is ‘Time to Talk Day’ and I would encourage readers to start a conversation about mental health with their loved ones. One in four of us will suffer a mental health problem at some stage during our lives. Challenging the stigma around mental illness is important. Conversations about mental health can help break down barriers and end the isolation that too many people experience.
By talking about mental health more openly and improving access to therapies we will ensure that mental health remains a priority and that everyone gets the support that they need.