James Heappey weekly column

This month we are celebrating the 70th anniversary of the National Health Service and so I wanted to use this week's column to pay tribute to the amazing work of all who work in our health service. Delivering medical care free at the point of need to everyone, irrespective of their means is the most wonderful achievement for our society. Belief in a universal health system transcends the political divide and although it is rather too frequently made into a political football, the reality is that all sides of British politics care passionately for our NHS.

I always think that the greatest measure of the NHS's success is the extraordinary improvements in life expectancy since it was founded in 1948. New medicines have obviously played a big part in that too and huge advances in standards of living too, but I would argue that nothing has had a bigger impact than universal access to health care. 

With that success comes the biggest challenge the NHS now faces. The majority of people are not dying of uncomplicated things in their early seventies any more. They are living twenty years longer and developing complex medical conditions that require lots of medication and clinical attention. Make no mistake, that's a good thing - I love that my children have two great grannies who are both going strong in their mid-nineties - but it also means the demand on our NHS is growing exponentially.

That is why I was delighted to see the Government announce that the NHS will get another £20 billion a year to meet the cost of this quickly growing demand. Not all of the pressure on our health service is the consequence of funding but the extra cash helps a lot and I look forward to seeing how it translates into even better services here in Somerset.