We must have an NHS that is there when we need it

Begging for basic medical attention should not be a fact of life in 2024, but it is says Finchley and Golders Green Labour candidate Sarah Sackman

Barnet Hospital
Barnet Hospital

We’ve all been there. Dialling the number, waiting for the moment where the clock strikes 8am, only to immediately be placed 18th in the queue and unlikely to get an appointment for two weeks. Sitting on hold at 8am to beg for basic medical attention should not be a fact of life in 2024, but it is. 

I have two children so have done my fair share of sitting in waiting rooms – an ear infection, a split knee, the next set of vaccinations, there’s always something.

Imagine being able to get an appointment after work or at the weekend. Not having to work out whether to go to A&E for a small niggle; not wanting to waste their time but knowing that treatment is needed. That’s why creating 40,000 more evening and weekend appointments each week is Labour’s very first step to getting the NHS back on its feet. 

The NHS is the pride of this country. Everyone has their own personal story where the NHS plays the hero. 

Mine concerns the birth of my first daughter, a straightforward pregnancy that ended with an emergency, a lot of lost blood and some terrifying moments. She is eight now and thriving, thank goodness.

Back then, the midwives, doctors and nurses came to my aid when I needed it most. Yet, NHS staff can only do their best in a broken system, a system which has only fractured further since the birth of my child.

The Care Quality Commission, England’s independent regulator, reports that maternity and antenatal services have deteriorated. In 2023, 1 in 4 women were left alone at some point during or shortly after giving birth at a time that was worrying for them. Perhaps unsurprisingly given this context, women are more likely to die in pregnancy and child birth today than they were 10 years ago. 

For black and Asian women the odds are even worse. More than two years ago the Ockenden report highlighted “the need for significant investment in the maternity workforce”. Nothing of that nature has materialised.

Instead, we had to campaign hard to save our maternity services at the Royal Free. The Conservative government has taken us and our beloved NHS backwards – almost to the point of oblivion. 

Maternity services are just one example; you’ll have your own story. But what emerges is an NHS workforce that is woefully depleted; dedicated doctors, midwives, nurses and carers are driven away by poor pay and awful conditions. 

An exhausted and exasperated doctor at one of Barnet’s busy hospitals shared her frustrations with me: “If you can’t get an appointment or worse, an ambulance when you need it, then it’s likely that you will be in much worse shape when you do finally get to see me. After 14 years of this government there just isn’t enough capacity.” 

I am proud to stand for a Labour Party that will tackle this challenge with the urgency and scale required. We must have an NHS that is there when we need it, where people aren’t left to fend for themselves, and that is fit for modern Britain. 

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