Gazette & Herald Column: Booking GP appointments by app will avoid queues

This week we are celebrating the 70th anniversary of our NHS by saying “Thank You” to the people who work so hard every day to deliver our health system (which is ranked No 1 in the world) and discussing how the unprecedented funding boost that the Conservatives are giving to our most precious national resource will be allocated.  The new 5-year funding boost will see an additional £20 billion invested in the NHS by 2023/4 – an average increase of 3.4 per cent each year for five years, or £394 million more each week in real terms, the biggest cash boost in the NHS’s history reflecting our commitment to making this service even better and keeping it free and accessible for all.   Despite the work that we have had to do since 2010 to repair our public finances we have kept more money flowing into the NHS every year, but now that we are getting back to a zero structural deficit, seeing the highest employment levels for over four decades and seeing our debt fall, we can increase our investment like this – you can only have strong public services if you have a strong economy. 

We heard this week that an increased focus on things like cancer survival rates will be a priority, as despite some real breakthroughs and superb treatments, our survival rates lag other countries.  We will also dramatically improve the treatment and diagnosis of mental health conditions.  Much of the progress will be underpinned with new technology that will revolutionise the way conditions are diagnosed and managed – for example the NHS have developed a world-leading app that will let us book GP appointments, check symptoms and manage repeat prescriptions by smartphone, rather than having to join a queue of callers attempting to ring the local surgery. The app will be available from December 2018 – a great Christmas present from the NHS!   The real push will be to make sure the new money – as well as the hundreds of billions already committed – is spent on improving the outcomes for patients and ensuring that NHS staff get the training and support they need.

Locally, of course, we have been quietly celebrating for a while as our new GP-led Health Centre on Marshall Road in Devizes moves closer to reality, with funding and planning permission secured after years of campaigning.   I am now working with the NHS and Wiltshire Council to see if some of the housing that is planned for the site could be reserved for the key NHS workers we need, both in this local facility, in Great Western and across our area.