Mike Minogue writes in the Whitehaven News:
As we approach the General Election, national polls have shown that the most important issue for voters is the future of the National Health Service. This is true in Copeland, just as anywhere else in the UK. The continuing uncertainty over the future of the West Cumberland Hospital affects us all. Fear for the future of our hospital services has understandably brought popular demonstrations and wide debate.
The NHS has a long history, but now faces major social and environmental changes. Yet the vision in 1942 of that great Liberal, William Beveridge, remains as valid today as it was 70 years ago. He proposed our present social security system, based on the insurance principle – people pay their national insurance and they receive national insurance benefits, including hospital treatment free at the point of delivery.
I suspect we have all at some time been grateful for the excellent work of the NHS and of our local hospital, with its outstanding staff. Despite frequent criticism, the NHS is one of the best health systems in the world and is also among the cheapest. In a recent comparison of eleven advanced countries, the NHS came top for effectiveness, safety, co-ordination, quality and access.
There have been mistakes. The decision by Labour to allow new hospitals to be built via the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) has imposed a huge financial burden involving massive service provision payments for 30 years. Recent reorganisations have caused yet more uncertainty and frustration, nowhere more so than in our local Hospital Trust. But there are some positives too. The new Cleator Moor Health Centre is a great success, effectively a ‘One-Stop shop’ for the community, with impressive facilities appreciated by the local people. We need many more such local developments.
Liberal Democrats believe passionately in the NHS and are committed to maintaining it as a public service open to all, irrespective of their means. We will fight to retain the maximum range of services in our West Cumberland Hospital. The NHS budget will be guaranteed, should Liberal Democrats be in government, to rise to ensure it keeps ahead of inflation.
We will also tackle discrimination against those with mental health difficulties. Around a quarter of the population experience mental health problems, but few receive adequate treatment. Mental health costs the country billions every year. We will ensure that mental health patients get treated as quickly as those with physical health problems.
Liberal Democrats will fight the coming elections on the principle that everyone needs the best opportunities to get on in their lives. Effective and accessible health care remains essential for this.
To contact West Cumbria Liberal Democrats visit wcld.focusteam.org.uk
or telephone Roger Putnam on 019467 23361