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Can Sevenoaks cope if the pressure on our local health services continues to rise, while the number of health professionals doesn’t?

April 27, 2018 11:40 AM
By Dr Merilyn Canet

The short answer is no, and we need to fix the problem. Challenges facing our health services are not just about money, which politicians focus on. They are about people, and simple facts.

First, here in West Kent we live longer. This is good news, but means we need more healthcare - both NHS and social care. Few of us want to be looked after by robots. We want sympathetic carers, as well as skilled professionals to keep us healthy.

Second, here and nationally, we are short of nurses. One third of people working in the profession are due to retire within five years. A lot of training is needed very fast.

Third, over one in ten of our doctors, nurses and support staff - over 540 in Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust alone - come from the rest of Europe. They've stopped coming due to the uncertainty threatening them and their families.

Short term cash fixes don't tackle real human needs like this. Liberal Democrats set up a Heath Commission including former heads of NHS England, the Royal College of Nursing, and the Patients Association to develop a long term strategy.

Its report published this year says:
- the NHS in England needs a real funding increase of £4bn in 2018-19, followed by £2.5bn in both the following two years; taxation for this should be ring fenced so heath organisations and workers can plan ahead
- to make it sustainable in future, health and social care should be paid for by a single dedicated tax to replace National Insurance
- we need better incentives to encourage people to save more towards adult social care, and the cap on costs to individuals must be brought back
- local authorities need financial support to invest in public health

All this will only work unless we can fund social care better, so that people don't get left in expensive medical hospital beds. The same goes for mental care. As Norman Lamb our health spokeman says, one in four of us will need help during our life, and those affected by mental health issues often get stranded in hospital.