I have had prolonged, recent experience of our wonderful NHS in relation to the care of a very close relative, and I am in profound awe of its professionalism and humanity. Recent national headlines have implied that the health service is facing an unprecedented funding crisis, despite the Conservative government's promise at the last election to provide the necessary extra funding year- on- year to keep pace with our national ageing population and its increased longevity.
This promise was never properly costed, unlike the one produced by the Lib Dems during the election, which showed exactly how the extra £8bn per year needed would be paid for.
Echoes of this crisis can be seen in Dorset, with the publication of the Dorset Sustainability and Transformation Plan, which honestly admits that its rationale is:
'...delivering improvements to our health and care system at a time of increased demand but with a lower growth of resources'. In other words, doing more for less money!
It is this plan which has suggested a sharp reduction in the number of GP surgeries (a serious step in a very rural area) ; a redefinition of the services offered by our three main hospitals, and the virtual disappearance of three community hospitals - including the Westminster Hospital in Shaftesbury.
I would urge local campaigners to fight hard to preserve their services. Once lost they will never be replaced, and our county has a more ageing population than most others, in an extremely widely-dispersed area. One thing is for sure: campaigners had better not waste any time waiting for the supposed £350m per week windfall for the NHS from leaving the EU: this figure was always completely inaccurate and wildly exaggerated - and now even the Leave campaigners themselves have given up pretending that the money will ever help our beleaguered health services.