Cllr. McGrath presents the facts in the NHS debate

On opposite sides of the leaders and letters pages on the 14th August issue of the Whitehaven News, two very different pictures of government support for the NHS in West Cumbria were presented. On page 21 the Labour candidate for Copeland refers to an extra £850 million which Boris Johnson has announced for the NHS, and complains that “Cumbria will be missing out on any extra funding.”


Opposite, on page 20, the Conservative health spokesman for Cumbria has a letter listing the extra funding which West Cumbria is receiving, including a reference to the extra £1.8 billion which Boris Johnson has just announced for the NHS as a whole. I imagine that many of your readers may have wondered “which of them is telling the truth?”


In fact, neither contains any lies – but one of them gives a much more comprehensive account of the money which has been and is being invested in our NHS while the other selectively refers to a particular block of money allocated to 20 specific hospital improvements, none of which happen to be in Cumbria, and conveniently omits any reference to other sums of money which actually are coming to improve our local hospitals here in Cumbria.


Boris Johnson announced a £1.8 billion increase over what the NHS had previously had available to spend next year, on top of the increases already announced by Theresa May, and the increase he announced had two elements.  £850 million was for those 20 specific hospital improvements elsewhere in the country, which is what the Labour candidate referred to, but there was also further boost of about another billion pounds to general NHS capital spending this year, an increase of 30%.


This will allow existing upgrade projects to proceed faster. And we do have some of those in Cumbria.


As Chris Whiteside pointed out on your letters page, the government has already spent £90 million on the first stage of upgrading West Cumberland hospital. More recently another £65 investment in Cumbria’s hospitals has been approved including major works at both Carlisle and WCH, with the lion’s share being the next phase of the West Cumberland Hospital redevelopment.


So yes, the government is putting money into our local NHS and you don’t need to take my word or Chris’s – just go and look at the magnificent new facilities at our local hospital.