On Monday morning, I was invited in my capacity as Labour’s Shadow Minister for Public Health to the launch of Labour’s Health Mission in Essex.
I’ve been the Shadow Minister since 2021. Public Health is a broad term, but essentially covers the health of the population as a whole. It’s about things like life expectancy, disease prevention, obesity, smoking and quite a bit more. It’s a fascinating thing to work on, and something that I’ve been passionate about for many years.
We all have a right to lead happy, healthy lives, irrespective of where we grow up or the money in our pockets. When I was growing up in Denton, I remember feeling horrified when I discovered that some of my best friends would – on average – live ten years less than me. Not because they were some kind of daredevils, but because their environment (i.e. their housing, diet, financial circumstances and more) made them more likely to get ill younger.
Tackling this inequality in health outcomes is why I accepted the Public Health job in the first place, and why I was so pleased to see Keir Starmer setting out a bold and ambitious vision for the future.
The next Labour Government has committed to meeting all major NHS targets by the end of its first time, and to driving down waiting times across the board.
These goals are ambitious, but totally achievable. They would be achieved by shifting care from the hospital to the community, by recruiting thousands more NHS staff, and by taking action to prevent people becoming sick in the first place.
If this all sounds a bit ‘pie in the sky’ to you, I don’t blame you. The NHS is in such a crisis, it’s hard to imagine anything beyond that. But another future is possible, one where the NHS is there for everyone who needs it. It’s been done before. When Labour left office in 2010 the NHS had the lowest waiting times and highest patient satisfaction levels on record.
If we can make this mission a reality, it will be truly transformative for Tameside. I know from my own casework that local people are really struggling to access care when they need to, in spite of the heroic efforts of burnt-out NHS staff.
This must not be allowed to go on. It’s time to build an NHS that is fit for the future.