One of the campaigns I pursued during my time as St Albans’ MP was to push for the building of a new teaching hospital in, with a site identified adjacent to the University of Hertfordshire. Petitions were presented to the then Prime Minister and Health Secretary. In July2004 the then Health Secretary, John Reid, wrote a letter expressing his support for the idea.
Unfortunately, over the last decade, the opportunity has been allowed to go to waste. The pressure on government ministers was not sustained and the new hospital has not been built.
I want to resume that campaign. The need is greater than ever. We are not training enough of our own doctors and nurses, although thankfully we are able to rely on thousands of young doctors from Pakistan and nurses from Spain to fill the gaps. It doesn’t seem quite right to me that we ‘poach’ these highly trained and qualified health practitioners from other countries that have trained them and have their own needs.
We must train more of our own young people in these highly skilled and crucially important roles. We already have one of the best nursing training units in the country at the University of Hertfordshire – I have seen for myself the excellence of the facilities available.
Our health service is under tremendous pressure, with waiting times and lists growing despite the hard work and dedication of the excellent professionals who are being let down this government’s refusal to invest in an NHS it appears determined to privatise.
We have to build an NHS fit for the challenges of the future, and that means investing in the training and development of a new generation of healthcare professionals. We must be clear that our priority is the preservation of an world class NHS for all, not just the best care that money can buy for the few.