Medical experts will tell you that for the elderly, winter means greater susceptibility to ill-health.
This winter, as the NHS nears the danger zone, many more in society will be susceptible to longer waiting times, longer discharge times and a National Health Service that is being forced to take billions of pounds away from patient care and spend it on an indefensible reorganisation.
That was the message from staff at the Barnsley Hospice and the Barnsley Hospital today as I visited them on the last leg of my “Care at Christmas” programme. Winter is hard for nurses, doctors, surgeons and the administrative and supporting staff – many of whom will be charged with looking after patients over the Christmas period. It is especially hard for these carers when they are working within an organisation that is facing real uncertainty.
Over the last month, I have come to realise, that caring for society’s most vulnerable is not a job – it’s a vocation. Doctors and nurses do the work they do because they want to help make peoples’ lives better and more comfortable.
It is the job of politicians to ensure that their ability to perform these duties on the front line is never compromised. The Conservative Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, has fundamentally misunderstood this.
David Cameron said at Prime Ministers Questions earlier this year that no MP in the Commons understands the NHS better than Lansley. I disagree with that. Don’t take my word for it, look at the evidence.
In all of the reforms Lansley has proposed, he has overlooked one crucial aspect of the NHS – the people. The NHS has an ability to create heroes and heroines on a daily basis. It’s about the doctors and the nurses, the porters and the cleaners, the volunteers and the supporting staff.
We are extremely fortunate in Barnsley to have men and women in our hospital who care for our sick and are relentless in their determination to see each patient return to health and be as comfortable as possible.
In the next few days, I will be thinking about the husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters who will travel to Barnsley Hospital to sit with loved ones, hold their hands and share Christmas together. It isn’t easy and it isn’t perfect, but we should rest happy in the knowledge that within the Hospital there are some of the country’s finest people ready to care for our loved ones this Christmas.
I know all too well about spending long days and nights at the bedside of a loved one in hospital. In my family’s darkest days, we saw the true genius of the NHS. A genius based on care and compassion, commitment and dedication, principles and standards.
The NHS and its staff are the pride of Britain and the Government would do well to remember that.