Gazette column - 18/7/19

We’re justifiably proud of the National Health Service, nearly nine-in-every-10 of us loving the lifesaving public service.

I worry about the state of mind of the disaffected tiny minority yet the NHS’s overwhelming 87% endorsement from the public in a YouGov opinion poll, topped only by the 91% expressing delight in the fire brigade, is a resounding vote of confidence.


Which is why, when the NHS is a national religion, the Tories and Boris Johnson deserve a kick in the ballots for the pain deliberately inflicted on the best health system in the world.


Cuts, privatisation and expensive bureaucratic reorganisation cost lives, and waste billions of pounds better spent on treating patients.


Here in our corner of North East England for many years we’ve fought for the future of South Tyneside District Hospital which, without a terrific campaign spearheaded by trade unions and the community, would be a bigger casualty of Conservative spite.


I’ve backed the Save South Tyneside Hospital campaign since May 2016 and had the pleasure of meeting the lead campaigners Roger Nettleship and Gemma Taylor, along with many of you while speaking at marches and rallies in South Shields Market Place, Brinkburn and Hedworthfield Community Association.


I’ve raised my concerns in Parliament about the downgrading of South Tyneside’s hospital and closures of St Clare’s Hospice in Jarrow and the Palmer walk-in centre.


We shouldn’t need to battle to save the NHS, but the Tories are forcing us to defend what we have when they threaten to take it away.


And when Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and our Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell joined us in signing the petition to save services during visits to the Jarrow Parliamentary constituency, I can assure you Labour will protect and invest in the NHS.


The Tories running down major services at South Tyneside District Hospital is dangerous.


South Tynesiders have already seen stroke, paediatric and maternity services moved to Sunderland and the next phase of the plan will see changes to A&E, emergency and planned surgery, care and outpatients and clinical support services.


So we need like a hole in the head proposals to finance a so-called “Path to Excellence” when that path’s likely to lead to intensified downgrading of hospital services here on South Tyneside.


It seems obvious to me it’s a route to disaster sign posted by Tory austerity so let’s not go that way, keeping what we’ve got until a Labour Government rescues us from the clutches of grasping Tories.


We’ve gone down this road before with the closure of the hugely-popular Jarrow Walk-in Centre and we mustn’t shirk from fighting for what we value.


I give you my word I’ll continue to work enthusiastically with all those committed to the NHS, including excellent local councillors and trades unions in the frontline of the war to save precious services.


Labour had to beat the Tories to create the NHS in 1948 and it’s clear 71 years later we must beat the Conservatives again to save then revive the NHS.


Most of what’s good in life was won by struggle, and that includes free medical treatment when we’re sick.

Meet your MP


Stephen Hepburn has served the Jarrow Constituency as MP since 1997.

He was last elected to serve in June 2017 and won the seat with a conclusive 17,263 majority.

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