The NHS is personal to all of us. Today, on its 72nd birthday, we have the chance not just to celebrate it but to reflect on what it means to us.
My mum was a nurse, but she was also very ill for much of her life.
The NHS she served and loved was also her lifeline.
When I remember the dedication and professionalism of the doctors and nurses who cared for her, I feel a deep sense of gratitude. It is what inspires me to fight for our health system, to ensure that kind of care will always be available to everyone. I know many others feel the same.
The NHS means so much to so many. But in the last few months, as we have battled the coronavirus, it has become even more important.
The impact of Covid-19 across our country has been devastating.
Friends and families have been kept apart and tens of thousands of lives have been taken too early, including hundreds of NHS workers.
At the centre of this storm, our NHS has been a rock. For every life tragically lost, many more have been saved by the actions of our NHS heroes.
I know it has been incredibly hard for those on the front line.
Day in, day out, they put themselves in harm’s way to save others. We must never forget who our key workers are.
For them, it’s more than a job.
Their deep sense of public service and desire to help people in need shine through. They are the best of us.
That’s why Labour supports those calling on the Government to make an immediate commitment to talks on a pay rise for NHS workers, and to agree this deal as soon as possible.
The numbers of deaths are, at last, coming down. But Covid-19 has not gone away. The threat from the virus is still very real.
Throughout this crisis, the Government has been too slow. Too slow into lockdown, too slow to ramp up testing, too slow to fix the test-and-trace system and much too slow to get PPE to the front line of the NHS.
The situation we saw in Leicester this week shows that the Government has still not got a grip on quickly identifying and containing local outbreaks.
We need to remain vigilant and do everything we can to protect and support our NHS.
That’s why Labour is calling on ministers to publish an NHS winter resilience plan, with free flu jabs for over-50s, weekly coronavirus testing for NHS and social care staff, and proper stockpiling of PPE.
The Government must learn from the mistakes made in their response to the virus so far and help the NHS prepare for winter.
That includes facing up to the scandal that allowed the virus to ravage our care homes.
We need to eliminate the virus from care homes before winter sets in.
The NHS is an incredible institution, one we are all proud of.
For 72 years, it has been by our side, ready to catch us when we need it most. So today, we say happy birthday to our NHS, and thank you to all those who have served in it.