Thank you, Mr Speaker, I feel privileged to be able to contribute to this debate today. Although the opposition no doubt will want to take this chance to yet again weaponise our NHS, I want to take this opportunity to praise it and the work of all those that work in it – particularly in my own constituency where the staff at Southport Hospital are professional, dedicated and hardworking.

There will always be times when our NHS comes under greater pressures and winter is one of those times, that is why, in 2017, the Government and NHS began preparing for the winter earlier than ever before. In the autumn of last year, the Secretary of State visited my local hospital and he and I had a meeting with the interim Chief Executive where he painstakingly took us through the plans that had been put in place for the coming winter as well as paying tribute to the excellent staff who had worked so hard and continue to do so.

Those preparations involved working with a range of partner organisations including the local Clinical Commissioning Group, the Local Authority as well as the Emergency Services providing better joined-up thinking which provides better care for patients.

Although the cancellation of elective operations is never ideal, fewer were cancelled than in previous years a fact that surely should be welcomed and I am certain that this will further improve over the coming years.

It is important to remember that we have a record of continuous investment in the NHS even though we have been faced with extraordinarily difficult economic circumstances. The Department of Health’s budget has been protected since 2010 and continues to rise. We can only spend more on the NHS when we have a strong economy, something which we clearly would not have under Labour. The numbers speak for themselves; our investment in the NHS will rise from £101 billion in 2015 to £120 billion by 2020.

Research from the Nuffield Trust shows that the UK spends above the EU and the OECD averages on healthcare as a percentage of GDP and considerably more than the socialist regime in Venezuela which seems to basis for Labour’s economic models.

I must welcome the Government’s multi-million-pound investment in Southport District Hospital over this winter, and I was delighted when Southport and Ormskirk Trust was granted an additional £1,326,000.00 in funding to help cope with winter pressures.

Southport Hospital and the wider health system has prepared earlier and more extensively than ever before for winter this year, with a focus on securing the right numbers of doctors and nurses, increasing bed availability as well as making sure there is strong social care and community care support available to help discharge patients from hospital quickly.

The extra funding was announced as part of a £337m immediate funding boost for NHS hospitals this winter in the recent Budget, in addition to the extra £2.8bn investment over the next two years.

This is, of course, welcome news for Southport patients and residents. We all want to know the NHS is there for us and our families whenever we need it, so I’m pleased the Government has given the NHS extra support at this critical time of year, when cold weather and flu can increase the pressures on hard-working hospital staff.

A constituent of mine recently contacted me to tell me about the excellent treatment that his elderly mother received at Southport Hospital over the Christmas period, after she suffered a serious health scare.

His mother and his family were unanimous in their praise for the paramedics who brought her to hospital, the nurses who treated her with unparalleled kindness and the doctors who sought to get her back to full health as soon as they possibly could – his mother saying of her treatment ‘we couldn’t have asked for more’. It is my absolute pleasure to pass on their sincere thanks to my Right Honourable friend, The Secretary of State for Health (and now Social Care) and let me also take this opportunity to congratulate him on his new additional brief, which I am sure he will make a success of.

It just remains for me to say Mr Speaker, that it is ultimately thanks to our strong economy that we can make this extra investment in the NHS. Polls show the NHS is the institution that makes us most proud to be British, and my party will always back and fund it!