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Newspaper Columns

Times of Tonbridge - 30 January 2019 - Our Local NHS

Last week I went to a funeral in Canterbury Cathedral. It was a beautiful service, full of hymns, English music and joyful reminiscences of a father who came to Kent to build a home, a family and a life and found it in our corner of the United Kingdom.

There were hundreds of people there. The eulogies gave him different names – father, husband, doctor – but the theme throughout was clear. Here was a man who had touched lives, who had cared.

Perhaps that’s not surprising in someone who had devoted his life to medicine, but the turnout spoke of more than that. He was a man who understood the role of medicine in society, the role of doctors in health and the way general practice can change lives.

His example was not lost on others because it was spoken about so widely. Many years before I mourned his loss, I knew about his work. The Whitstable Medical Practice, from which he served, is a model for many in our community. Indeed I first heard about it as soon as I started looking into the Combined Medical Facility which is planned for Edenbridge, it was held up as one of Kent’s finest. Whitstable Medical Practice has pioneered bringing together treatments that would often have needed a trip to hospital making many different types of treatment available in the community. That’s life-changing.

Instead of having to drive to a hospital or wait for public transport, people can access specialist care straight from their GP. That’s good for the patient, obviously, but it’s also good for the GP, who can develop new specialism and expand the work available, and for the hospital, who can focus on the most complex cases. But it’s also good for all of us. The innovation Whitstable has shown has helped keep medical costs down.

That’s not about cost saving but money stretching. One pound in every seven the government spends goes on health so increasing the budget – as we did with £20 billion earlier this year – is hard. We know that already. Instead, we need to listen to those who know how to do better so the NHS can continue to do what it does so well and underwrite the UK economy.

It’s also why new premises for Tonbridge Medical Group are important. Anyone on the books, as well as the GP’s themselves, will know that the current Pembury Road practice isn’t sustainable in the long term. Enabling better facilities locally so NHS services can provide more facilities is vital here in Tonbridge too.

The NHS is inspiring to so many of us. Like the Army, where I served for many years, it is part of government but it’s distinct ethos pushes people further and empowers them to make a difference. In the best hands, like many of the GP practices we see in our community, this has seen innovation and enterprise meet as doctors look at social prescribing as well as traditional cures.

What they do every day makes the country healthier, safer and stronger. And by taking on so many of the everyday risks we all face, it allows us to grow, try, and succeed for the benefit of all.

I wasn’t surprised to see so many people thanking Dr Lakshman 'David' Kanagasooriam, he didn’t just build a home and family here in Kent, his work helped us all build our own lives too. Thank you. And thank you to all those who continue to serve our community.

Georgie Welford