I believe in the NHS and its values. I recognise that the NHS has been under sustained pressure and is facing an unprecedented demand. This is as true of Dorset as other areas, thanks to a range of factors including rising life expectancy. However, having spoken to ministers I know that the Government is determined to protect the service through an extremely challenging period and ensure its future sustainability. There are now 11,400 more doctors and 11,200 more hospital nurses in the NHS since 2010.
As part of extensive preparations for this winter, investment of £350 million was included in local Clinical Commissioning Group budgets in 2016/17 for resilience planning, and £50 million was made available for national initiatives. The NHS also launched the largest ever flu vaccination programme and bolstered support outside A&Es, with 12,000 additional GP sessions offered over the festive period.
As a result of this preparation and, most importantly, the hard work of frontline staff in difficult circumstances, the system overall is coping and even performing slightly better than last year. Earlier in December, it treated a record number of patients within four hours and we are seeing 2,500 more patients within the four hour standard every single day compared with 2010. The Government is committed to maintaining and delivering the vital four hour A&E standard to patients.
It is widely understood that too many people are going to A&E unnecessarily, and therefore we must look at ways to protect the four hour target for people who need it most. This will be done through triaging more people at the 'front doors' and pointing them towards more appropriate services, as well as giving more information to the public so they can make the right decisions about the services they need to access.
I have used local health services and the NHS locally for over 10 years and I know that the Government remains committed to ensuring that the NHS offers the safest, highest-quality care available anywhere in the world.