MPs from across the North East have expressed conflicting views about the future of the National Health Service (NHS) as the country celebrates its 75th anniversary.

Today (July 5) marks the 75th anniversary of Britain’s National Health Service (NHS), as the country, the service's staff and the government celebrate the milestone.

In 1948, Labour minister Aneurin Bevan spearheaded the creation of the NHS, an organisation whereby patients would have access to medical, dental, and nursing care in their hour of need.

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Since then, the NHS has grown to employ over 1.25 million people across the country, providing millions of people primary care through GPs in local communities and in-patient treatment in state of the art hospitals.

To mark the milestone, The Northern Echo reached out to politicians from across the region and asked them what they believe is the future of the service and what this anniversary means to the North East.

For Labour MPs, funding for the service that is “on its knees” is the main concern, whilst Conservative MPs have promoted the government’s latest Long Term Workforce Plan for the NHS that was announced by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on June 30.

Labour MP for the City of Durham, Mary Kelly Foy, praised the work of the NHS - but stated that the lack of investment from the current Conservative government has left the UK itself “blighted by sickness”.

The Northern Echo:

Ms Foy said: “The NHS should be there when people need it, but Conservative neglect has meant record numbers cannot access the care they are entitled to at the time which they desperately need it.

“Tory austerity has left the UK blighted by sickness. Vast health inequalities have widened between rich and poor. Poor wages, poor diets, and poor housing result in poor health - and it falls on the NHS to pay for the cost.

“Prevention is better than cure, and over its next 75 years the NHS must evolve away from a national sickness service to putting prevention of ill health at its heart. That requires not just the NHS but the whole collective effort of Government, to stamp out social inequalities before they lead to health inequalities.”

Fellow Labour MP Alex Cunningham, MP for Stockton North, shares the views of Ms Foy and claims the service is “on its knees” as it begins its 75th year of work.

The Northern Echo:

Mr Cunningham said: “The NHS remains something our country can be proud of - a health service free at the point of use that looks after anyone regardless of wealth or status.

"However, as has happened before, it is being brought to its knees by a Conservative Government that has starved it of meaningful investment resulting in record high waiting lists, aging facilities, and low staff morale.

“As we approach the 75th anniversary of the NHS, we should celebrate both it and its dedicated workforce who go above and beyond to support people through their healthcare journey, but we also need to reflect on what the future holds for it – and who is best placed to safeguard and deliver an NHS for the 21st century.”

The Northern Echo: Former Stockton South MP Dr Paul Williams.

Former Labour MP for Stockton South, Dr Paul Williams has also shared his thoughts on 75 years of the NHS.

Dr Williams still works in the health service after his Parliamentary career came to an end in 2019 two years after he was first elected to represent his constituency in June 2017.

He told The Northern Echo: “I’m still proud of everything the NHS manages to do. I think the most important principle for me is that healthcare is accessible to people regardless of their ability to pay. The principle that you get care when you need it, not when you can afford it.

“That principle still works for the NHS – although the caveat for that is that you must wait quite a long time and that widens health inequalities. But I do think that that principle still stands.”

For North East Conservative MPs, the future of the service is through the latest work of Rishi Sunak’s government.

Darlington’s MP Peter Gibson thanked the workers of the town’s NHS facilities as he expressed his support for the NHS Long Term Workforce plans that will see medical places at universities for trainee doctors doubled by 2031.

The Northern Echo: Darlington MP Peter Gibson.

Mr Gibson said: “Our NHS is an amazing collective of doctors, nurses, consultants, pharmacists, therapists, and healthcare workers, supported by cleaners, cooks, and wide range of other services. As the son of an NHS community midwife, I saw first-hand the dedication and love that our NHS team put into the care they deliver.

“As our population grows, as we get older, as medical technology advances, the challenge for every government is to ensure the resources are there to deliver on the nation’s expectations.

"Last week’s workforce plan, setting out a vision for the next fifteen years is just what we need, with long-term planning and thinking for the future.

“I pay tribute to everyone involved in our NHS here in Darlington as we celebrate this historic milestone.”

Sir Simon Clarke, fellow Conservative for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, spoke of Teesside's James Cook University Hospital as an example of quality NHS care.

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The Northern Echo: Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP Sir Simon Clarke.

He said: "The NHS has done a brilliant job over the last 75 years, and like everyone else it has cared for me and my family throughout that time. Its staff are rightly renowned for their care, commitment and expertise.

“We need to focus constantly on how we can make the service fit for the future.  With a budget of £180 billion a year, NHS leaders need to focus on delivering maximum efficiency for the taxpaying public.  

"It does not help anyone to pretend that there aren’t areas of the service where improvement is not possible and better health outcomes can be achieved - and our own James Cook Hospital is a model of lots of good practice that can be shared nationally.”

Conservative MP for Sedgefield, Paul Howell, took time to praise the service and the current government that “works with NHS leadership”.

The Northern Echo: MP for Sedgefield Paul Howell.

He said: “The NHS is an important part of the fabric of our country and the underlying principle of care being free at the point of use is fundamental.

“I have engaged with many users, employees, and suppliers to the NHS since being elected and the tensions between the excellence of front-line staff and the challenges of managing an organisation as large and complex as the NHS are clear and obvious to all.

“It is critical that the NHS is supported to enable the front-line teams to be part of an organisation that delivers excellence at all levels and I look forward to continuing to support a Government working with NHS leadership to deliver this.”