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Candidates in Grantham and Bourne, Rutland and Stamford and South Holland and the Deepings debate the future of the NHS ahead of the General Election

The future of the NHS is at the forefront of our readers’ minds as General Election day beckons - but what do our candidates think?

We asked readers across Lincolnshire to send the questions they wanted to put to the candidates — and we’ve asked the people who want to represent our area in Parliament to ask them.

The following question was one of those put to the candidates:

How do you propose to fix the broken NHS, both nationally and at a local level? As a qualified nurse, all I see is an under funded service, especially locally? Readers also report problems getting GP and dental appointments, long wait times for operations and there’s many GP surgeries rated inadequate, or struggling with a lack of staff.

The answers appear below for candidates in three of the constituencies that represent readers for the print titles that power LincsOnline — the Grantham Journal, Rutland and Stamford Mercury, Lincolnshire Free Press and Spalding Guardian.

Scroll up and down to see what the contenders say in the Grantham and Bourne, Rutland and Stamford and South Holland and The Deepings seats — and let us know your views in the comments below.

The candidates for the Grantham and Bourne constituency in the 2024 General Election
The candidates for the Grantham and Bourne constituency in the 2024 General Election

Grantham and Bourne

Vipul Bechar (Labour)

Vipul Bechar did not respond to the questions by the deadline set.

Gareth Davies (Conservative)

The NHS is the envy of the world, but it has faced an unprecedented challenge in the form of a pandemic which understandably had put lots of routine procedures on hold.

Funding has risen in real terms to record levels, and this year we have seen waiting lists begin to fall steadily for the first time since the pandemic.

As a local MP my focus is on ensuring that local NHS leaders, responsible for local commissioning and provision, are held accountable for delivery and supported to make the most of new resources and innovations in national healthcare policy.

Together we’ve made good progress and secured significant investment. Grantham Hospital is back open 24/7, available theatre capacity has increased by 50% following a £5.3 million expansion, and it is now supported by Lincolnshire’s first Community Diagnostic Centre on Gonerby Road – equipped with state-of-the-art MRI and CT scanners thanks to £5m in additional funding.

Adding new local capacity eases pressure across our local NHS ecosystem, including our excellent local GP practices, all of whom are rated either ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by the CQC.

It is vital that we continue to add capacity through new resources and innovations to improve local services, including in dentistry where our manifesto commitment is to reform the dental contract and introduce a patient premium so more dentists take on new NHS patients.

I wish to put on record my thanks to all our NHS staff for their heroic efforts on the frontline of our pandemic response and recovery.

So we’ve had record national funding, millions invested locally, and more service for local people.

Anne Gayfer (Green)

The Green Party can be a pressure group in Parliament. We can get Green Party members elected, especially in target constituencies and our former MP Caroline Lucas and our 2 peers Natalie Bennet and Jenny Jones punch(ed) way above their weight in holding the government to account. Our manifesto commits to elected Greens pushing for

- a steady reduction in waiting lists

- we would guarantee rapid access to a GP and same day access in urgent need

- guaranteed access to an NHS dentist for everybody

- boosting the pay of NHS staff

- restoring local council budgets for public health

The Green Party has consulted on the cost of this policy and we believe that it will require an additional £8bn immediately and raising to £28bn per annum by the end of the Parliament, plus another £20bn for capital expenditure on our hospitals that are falling down. This will enable us to pay people properly to do the work that needs to be done.

As well as putting money into GP services and hospitals, we need to bring dentistry properly back into the NHS, which we estimate would cost £3bn per year.

Public Health is the poor relative to the NHS and yet doing this properly is absolutely critical to take the pressure off, by preventing people from becoming ill.

We would like to see community hubs delivering some of these services in the way that they were delivered when we had SureStart.

Alexander Mitchell (Social Democrat)

It's our view in the SDP that one of the NHS's problems is that it is over-managed. We propose to reduce the cost of management and overhead functions (including needless jobs such as 'diversity managers') by 15% in real terms over the course of a parliament. The savings from this will be fed back into front line services.

GPs' surgeries that rank in the bottom 10% for waiting times will be placed into special measures and set clearly-defined targets for improvement.

NHS England will publish a plan annually describing resource requirements to reduce waiting times for elective surgery to 6 weeks, and waiting times at A&E to under 3 hours.

A national audit of the NHS will be undertaken and published, benchmarking its performance and costs against health care systems in other comparable nations, and issuing a headline report to citizens.

The NHS will train British citizens to fully satisfy its workforce requirements and end the practice of large-scale importation of doctors, nurses and other clinicians from developing countries. Specialist clinical universities will be established to achieve this.

Charmaine Morgan (Lincolnshire Independents)

Charmaine Morgan did not respond did not respond to the questions by the deadline set.

Mike Rudkin (Reform UK)

My proposals are:

a) Cut costs within the NHS and all other government departments. Just £5 in a hundred in savings is all it would take, so that the savings can be properly spent on the front line. We all know that government procurement is extremely wasteful and not incentivised to get the best deal for the patient and improve outcomes.

b) Our most urgent policy involves taking every front line worker completely our of paying income tax for three years. This does three things immediately. It gives a very large pay rise to all front line staff. It helps to prevent further staff losses to other countries. It encourages those who would take early retirement to stay a while longer, and it will give us some time to work out much better pay and conditions going forward. In addition, we would cut the need for nurses to have to do a degree at all, and to pay off student fees for Nurses, Doctors and Dentists if they commit to staying in the UK for a set period, say at least 5 years after final qualification.

As a result of the these policies, we create a better environment for all staff, so that they are not over worked and they get a much better work/life balance.

Then there are the two big issues of cutting mass immigration to Net Zero, and calling a halt to non essential virtue signalling by the NHS bodies (Do we really need rainbow pedestrian crossings painted on the grounds of the Hospitals and/or on Ambulances? Do we really need very expensive Diversity and Inclusion staff? Net mass influx of over 700,000 immigrants is making our NHS sink with the extra demand, time to call a complete halt and catch up on our waiting lists.

The eventual upshot of these policies is that we encourage more of our home grown front line staff to study and remain in the UK, thus cutting the need to import staff from other countries, who themselves need that expertise for their own populations.

For this constituency in particular, I am passionate about making sure we get/keep and sustain a 24/7 A&E facility in Grantham and making sure that there is equal provision for those living along the borders of Newark. In fact, with the rapid growth of Bourne and the surrounding villages, I suggest we could do with at least an Emergency treatment centre there too.

Ian Selby (Independent)

When the NHS was founded in 1948 by Nye Bevan, national debt was at an incredibly high level due to the Lend Lease war debt to the USA, and yet they had the political will and found the finances to provide critical health services free at the point of delivery, based on clinical need, not ability to pay.

Politicians can find the money when they really want to for other projects such as the now cancelled HS2 rail project which would be a complete and utter waste of money, but there is always an excuse when it comes to funding the NHS and I will campaign to increase the funding. Locally it’s appalling that we can’t find an NHS Dentist.

The cost of a filling is nearly £100, that’s a lot of money for people on low income, but it’s just pocket money for the local Hospital Trust Executives. In 2022/23 the Chief Executive of ULHT earned over £230K, and two others on the board also earned greater than the Prime Minister, but having said that, I wouldn’t pay the current Prime Minister in washers. There are gravy train jobs in the NHS available for the top bosses whilst our front line Nurses deserve far more.

John Vincent (Liberal Democrat)

Top of the list in the Liberal Democrat Fair Deal is investing in the NHS. Better access to GPs and dental services are a priority. The Liberal Democrats have pledged an £8bn package for health and care services in England in their election manifesto.

By supporting and valuing carers, we can free up hospital beds. Additionally, it’s a time to invest in preventative health. So much more can be done to improve the health of the whole country.

Other candidates: Vipul Bechar (Labour), Charmaine Morgan (Lincolnshire Independents)

The candidates standing in the Rutland and Stamford constituency in the 2024 General Election
The candidates standing in the Rutland and Stamford constituency in the 2024 General Election

Rutland and Stamford

Emma Baker (Green)

First of all, thank you for your amazing work. I did a few years as a health care assistant whilst at university and I was so impressed with the work nurses do. With my sister-in-law (an ITU nurse) I have seen the impact of NHS cuts and the real impact on you as individuals, I am in awe of what you do. Thank you.

The Green Party are committed to making the NHS something this country can continue to be proud of and prevent it from privatisation. The Green Party manifesto states an additional £8bn of additional expenditure will be needed in the first year rising to £28bn by 2030. We will tackle the crisis in staff retention through increase to the budget for NHS staff costs to ensure salaries that are fair and reflect the skills and dedication of the NHS workforce.

We will invest £20bn in hospital building and repair across the UK, something that in Rutland and Stamford is absolutely needed to bring our services and buildings up to a good standard that accommodates our growing needs.

I will support our local primary services, move away from “requires improvement” to “good” and beyond. This can be done through supporting teams already in place to feel valued and to offer them more resources, as well as encouraging new professionals to join the teams to take them from strength to strength.

Sorting out our dental and health services is not about privatisation - it is about the right investment. Listening to what NHS staff feel they need to be able to continue their incredible work and fulfilling those needs.

Christopher Clowes (Reform UK)

Despite the billions of pounds being poured into the health budget every year, and ever-rising levels of tax to backstop these commitments, people in this country are still being denied the basic medical care they need. With each year that goes by, more of us are waking up to the same conclusion that you’ve come to: the NHS is a threadbare system that’s been turning everyone away, patients and doctors alike. Adding six million people to the population over the last 15 years hasn’t helped the situation either. Since 1948, our healthcare policy has been run centrally from Westminster, so solving these local problems requires taking measures at the national level.

We have to get creative with finding solutions to fix our health service. Turning on the money tap won’t help anyone besides middle-management bureaucrats - they’ll happily flush those funds down the drain towards projects like new diversity officers and wasteful IT contracts. Any sane government should have two priorities: relieving pressure on the NHS; and boosting the supply of doctors and nurses. Only then can we start to clear the backlogs and ensure treatments continue.

The best way to relieve pressure on the NHS is to encourage people to use more independent providers, who can start to build a complementary infrastructure to government care. Reform UK proposes an immediate tax relief of 20% on any independent healthcare or insurance, and a longer-term plan to give NHS patents vouchers for private treatment if they can’t access a GP within three days, a consultant within three weeks, or an operation within nine weeks. Services will always be free at the point of use - however, a growing independent healthcare capacity will provide a much-needed alternative to NHS care and reduce costs for everyone.

We need to keep our talented doctors and nurses like you in this country - the waves of NHS staff leaving for Canada or Australia are testament to how little incentive there is for medical professionals to help their communities. Reform UK wants to turn this tide. To start, we would scrap basic-rate tax for all frontline NHS and social care staff for three years. That’s two million people better off in their pocket and more motivated to make a difference. If you’ve done more than 10 years of NHS service as a doctor, nurse or other medical staff, we would write off your student fees pro rata each year. Incentives like these will stop NHS capacity from sliding even further.

Alicia Kearns (Conservative)

We all deserve to be able to access local healthcare when we need it. Over the last few years I’ve secured a commitment to build a second GP practice in Melton, helped re-open a medical clinic in Medbourne, delivered on my promise to save Rutland Memorial Hospital and not only did that, but secured an investment of £1.3 million to ensure its long term viability and upgrades to its infrastructure. We have 45 more GPs than 2019 in the communities I’ve served, and the number of GP appointments has also gone up by 14%. In Stamford a new £15.7 million state-of-the-art treatment centre is coming to the Stamford and Rutland hospital, which it is hoped will open in 2025. This will bring more health services to us at home.

There is still more to be done as we resolve the backlog and work through the increased pressures on our primary care, but locally I would prioritise improving primary care across Rutland and Stamford.

Nationally our NHS receives £636,000,000 per week and we have invested heavily in our local hospitals and expanding healthcare services. Despite the Labour-run Welsh NHS receiving more money than the English NHS per patient, according to the NHS Confederation the waiting times are longer, so whilst we are all seeing pressures, we are tackling them more effectively in England.

I hope my track record demonstrates a determination and ability to get things done on healthcare for our communities, and if I’m re-elected I will continue to fight to ensure GP access is improved and wait times are reduced.

James Moore (Liberal Democrats)

The Liberal Democrats will give everyone a legal right to see their GP within 24 hours in urgent cases and one week in non-urgent cases. We'll train 8,000 extra GPs and expand our medical schools. We'll reform the social care system to create more hospital capacity and rescue NHS dentistry to everyone can get the care they need. There are particular problems with GP access in our three main local towns. We will demand that when new housing is built, it comes with new NHS facilities to support that growing population and that there are sufficient GPs to serve the community.

Joe Wood (Labour)

Fixing our healthcare services is a personal priority for me. I have recently been a hospital patient and many close family members work for the NHS so I am acutely aware of the issues our NHS is facing.

Labour’s national policy on NHS reform includes funding 40,000 more shifts by cracking down on tax avoidance. I will prioritise addressing the underperformance of Lakeside Practice in Stamford and the inadequacy of primary care capacity across the constituency. In discussions with residents, I’ve learned about the desperate shortage of NHS dental services - a resident in Ketton, for example, has been on a waiting list for dental care for seven years! Tooth decay remains a prevalent cause of hospital admissions among children. Labour’s dentistry rescue plan aims to provide more urgent appointments and recruit dentists where needed.

In Rutland, with cancer waiting lists at the highest ever we have the lowest rate per capita for scanners in the developed world and recently lost a grant. Resolving this issue will be one of my immediate priorities to ensure our community has access to the necessary medical resources through Labour’s ‘fit for the future’ fund.

Labour built the NHS and it will be Labour that fixes it. None of the smaller parties have any influence over health policy. Only Labour can fix our NHS.

Other candidate: Joanna Burrows (Rejoin EU).

Candidates for South Holland and The Deepings. Clockwise from top left, are Mark Le Sage, Jack Braginton, Paul Hilliar, Matt Swainson, Rhys Baker and Sir John Hayes
Candidates for South Holland and The Deepings. Clockwise from top left, are Mark Le Sage, Jack Braginton, Paul Hilliar, Matt Swainson, Rhys Baker and Sir John Hayes

South Holland and the Deepings

Rhys Baker (Green)

We need to invest in primary care. GPs are key to prevention and early diagnosis, leading to better outcomes. To do this we will increase funding allocation to primary medical care with additional annual spending reaching £1.5bn by 2030. I want to see £2bn capital investment in primary care over the next five years. To reduce administrative burdens, we could allow hospital doctors to make onward referrals without returning to a patient’s GP first. I also want to expand diagnostic capacity in communities, increasing the chance of that vital early diagnosis. I would like to see a renegotiation of the GP contract.

Properly funding dentistry with £3bn a year by 2030 is a no-brainer. Everyone who needs access to an NHS dentist should have one. I want to see more education around healthy teeth as an investment in public health. This makes sense: dental issues are the most common reason for children aged 5-9 being admitted to hospital.

Record waiting lists were a feature of the NHS before the outbreak of Covid. A big issue is bed blocking, which is caused by patients not being able to be discharged into the community. By joining up social care and health, we can discharge more quickly, free up beds and reduce triage times and operation waiting lists.

This needs funding. A lot of funding. The NHS is at the heart of our communities and needs nursing back to health. We must invest £20bn over the next parliament for repairs and building. We need a further £28bn invested in people and equipment. We do not need to continue privatisation by the backdoor and ship off taxpayer money to foreign hedge funds and private hospital profit margins. We need to bring services back in-house and stop paying a premium for services the NHS can provide itself. We need £1bn to restore the pay of our nurses, doctors and healthcare workers. We need to address the recruitment and retention crisis – one in 11 of all roles in the NHS is currently vacant. We fill these by paying our staff properly, not cynically and callously prolonging strike action, and having enough staff so our healthcare workers are continually run into the ground. We also need to accept that skilled workers from overseas can help staff our NHS, providing care that is free at the point of access to all.

Jack Braginton (Liberal Democrat)

Fixing the NHS is at the forefront of the Liberal Democrats’ campaign during this election. We see this as the most pressing issue, and it is one of the most common concerns we hear on doorsteps up and down the country. I am so proud to represent the party with the most ambitious and serious plan to tackle this crisis. The most important step is clearing the backlog and getting the waiting list down. We aim to do this by integrating health with a revamped social care system, to ensure people get the primary care they need to avoid a trip to A&E, as well as knowing they will be cared for when they leave hospital. By standing up for carers and investing in 8000 more GPs in the long term, we can begin to undo the damage the Conservatives have done to our NHS. This plan is ambitious, and fully costed by reversing Conservative tax cuts on banks to 2016 levels. For more information, please do see our manifesto - For A Fair Deal!

John Hayes (Conservative)

Those who work in the health service do a remarkable job. I thank them for what they’ve done for me and my family, and for all those I’ve represented.

Managing an organisation as immense as the NHS will always be challenging. So, though more is being invested in the NHS than at any other point in its history and the Conservatives will continue to increase NHS spending above inflation for the next five years there are always improvements that can be made. Which is why I am always ready to take up cases on behalf of local people who are waiting for treatment. So many of you tell me that GPs just must see people face to face when needed. I agree. Revising the unsatisfactory GP contract which Labour put in place years ago must be made a priority.

I believe that more could be done at the Johnson Hospital, which I campaigned to have built, and is justly so well respected. So, having successfully secured its upgrade to a Major Treatment Centre, I am now pressing the Integrated Care Board for the funding for more treatments to be carried out there, thus saving local people arduous journeys to Boston or Peterborough.

NHS dentistry in South Holland just isn’t good enough – I know because I’m an NHS patient! So, the recently announced Government investment in NHS dental provision in Lincolnshire can’t come soon enough. We also need increased dental training places too - which is why I have raised with Ministers, mindful of the new dental training centre with which the University of Lincoln is involved, my determination to ensure that more of these trained dentists train and work here in the south of the county.

It's essential that people get the health service they deserve when and where it is needed - no ifs and no buts.

Paul Hilliar (Labour)

Since the Conservatives took over in 2010 there has been a 300% increase in waiting lists. There are around 7.5 million people an NHS waiting list. You might not be one of them, but I bet you know someone who is. This will not be an easy fix but Labour will: roll out 40,000 more appointments every week, double the number of cancer scanners, introduce a new Dentistry Rescue Plan and recruit, 8,500 additional mental health staff.

Locally, we want to bring back the family doctor by recruiting thousand more GPs and incentivising them to see the same patients - we all know that consistency of care is vital. We will also shift resources to primary care and community services so more people can be treated close to home.

Lastly, we will trial Neighbourhood Health Centres, by bringing together existing services such as family doctors, district nurses, care workers, physiotherapists, palliative care, and mental health specialists under one roof.

Mark Le Sage (Independent)

As a nurse I too see and work with the difficulties you face on a daily basis, This has come from years of underfunding and lack of support from consecutive governments. As an MP I would be able to approach the integrated care board to discuss funding and how to make changes locally, I would also be able to join the relevant cross-party committees to fight for more local funding. We all need better access to GP’s and dentistry; this is something I feel very passionate about and will campaign hard to find extra funding for our local services.

Matthew Swainson (Reform UK)

This is a thorny and perennial problem which does not lend itself to a pithy answer. That said, and with the proviso that I do not have the data to hand, my strong suspicion is that a lot of money allocated to the NHS is spent:

1) On things that don’t improve healthcare outcomes: I am of the view that no more than 10% of the health service’s wages bill should be spent on non-service-providing personnel.

2) Badly: Why does the NHS pay £6 for a pack of aspirin that costs 70p in the supermarket?

3) Wastefully: Why does the NHS not re-use expensive items like crutches, wheelchairs, etc.

The first steps therefore would be to reduce waste, and improve efficiency, for example: employ IT systems which are modern, fit for purpose, and talk to each other, such that a patient’s digital records can be accessed from anywhere within the healthcare system (with appropriate data protections of course).

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below…

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