PARTY Conference season is a strange time of year and this year more than ever with a general election due next year, writes Cllr Martin Wrigley.

The Lib Dem conference had a focus on investing in our health service. Access to a GP is so important, and early intervention is so important for our health. Lib Dems also want a guarantee on rapid cancer treatments which is so effective for successful recovery.

Meanwhile the Tory conference has announced a cut for HS2. Sadly they have missed the value of connecting northern towns, and have instead spent the budget on building tunnels and trying to build a faster train than the French.

The PM then announced projects to replace it which appear to include some that have already been delivered, some that have been subsequently removed from the list within days, and others that have been announced before.

The Tory conference had nothing to say on investment in our NHS, replacement of dangerous RAAC structures, or even the ever-decreasing number of NHS dentists.

The reason that we have so few NHS dentists is simple; the central government contract terms for dentistry doesn’t cover the cost of the work. This means that dentists usually loose money for every NHS patient that they treat.

The National Dental Statistics for 2022-23 show that over 60% of the adult population of Devon do not have access to an NHS dentist, and shockingly that 50% of Devon’s children don’t get to see an NHS dentist.

I often hear complaints from local residents that they can’t get a GP’s appointment either.

GPs and dentists are the first line of health care, and key in spotting any problems that need swift action. It is clear to me that access to a GP, and access to an NHS dentist is vitally important in stopping health problems getting worse. It is almost always more effective and efficient to fix issues before they get worse.

You wouldn’t sit watching the roof leaking and do nothing about it until the roof falls in, so why do we do that with healthcare. We can’t go on like this.

Our health service needs attention on many levels. It faces challenges and constraints and there isn’t a simple answer. Just how we set out to fix the NHS, we all rely on it. Private health care may be available to some, and I wouldn’t wish to stop those that choose that route. I would want to make it a choice and not a necessity.

This year’s conference season draws some sharp dividing lines between the parties, in preparation for the election next year.

Whatever the makeup of Parliament I really want to see NHS reform, access to GPs and dentists and rapid cancer treatment given the priorities they need. What we have today just isn’t working for too many people.

Conference season is a time for the parties to lay out their wares and energise their supporters. I am much happier with an approach that is trying to get more access for people to see their GP, and prompt treatment for cancer rather than cancelling investment in the railways.