The NHS crisis stems from Conservative neglect

Despite what some Tories say a proper funding of healthcare is possible. Germany, for example, spends £23 billion more than Britain on its health service every year. Only a Labour government can rescue the NHS, argues KEN LIVINGSTONE.

THERESA MAY’S boast that the NHS was the best prepared it’s ever been was totally discredited by this week’s NHS England stats which revealed the true and shocking scale of the NHS winter crisis, confirming the worst fears of patients and staff.

The figures are astonishing for a government that claims to be a friend of the NHS.

Both PM May and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt should hang their heads in shame, but instead they continually refuse to admit that their underfunding and cuts have left our health service more vulnerable than ever before. As with so many other issues, from police cuts to their failed welfare “reforms,” the Tories are refusing to accept that cuts have consequences.

As Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth put it: “The reality is we see hospitals at full capacity, ambulances backed up, cancelled operations and patients waiting for hours on trolleys.”

We now know that over 75,000 patients have been left languishing in the back of ambulances this winter, sometimes waiting well in excess of 12 hours in packed hospital corridors.

Additionally, in recent weeks there has been the suspension of sanctions for mixed-sex accommodation breaches, others are waiting in pain and anguish because their scheduled operation has had to be cancelled.

Alongside these developments, half of children’s intensive care units were dangerously full with Labour research showing that In the period between December 18 and 24 over one-third of England’s children’s care units were 100 per cent full without a single spare bed.

Experts argue that to run a children’s care unit above 85 per cent occupancy places patient safety at significant risk.

After what the Red Cross called a “humanitarian crisis” in the NHS last winter, the extent of this winter’s crisis has not come as a surprise to many who work In healthcare.

Despite some Tory spin, lapped up by parts of the Tory-supporting media who want to convince people a better Britain with properly funded public services isn’t possible, the reality is that the NHS is now approaching the eighth year of desperate underfunding caused by the cuts from the Con-Dem and then the Tory governments.

The results of Tory austerity in the NHS have been very real — to give just some examples, there have been thousands of beds cut from the NHS since 2010 and the numbers of days lost to delayed discharge are up by 50 per cent since 2010.

Labour also recently revealed that the number of people spending the Christmas period stuck in hospital due to “delayed transfer of care” nearly doubled between 2010 and 2016.

The latter problem of delayed transfers of care is directly attributable to the cuts imposed by the Tories, including in terms of social care where there is an ever-deepening crisis accompanying the one in the NHS.

The cuts to local authorities since 2010 will have seen reductions in social care budgets of £6.3 billion by March 2018, alongside a 26 per cent drop (some 400,000 people) in the numbers of older people receiving publicly funded care.

In total, one in 10 people over 50 not having their care needs met.

Additionally, Tory austerity escalates the pressures on the NHS and social care, due to an increase in inequality and poverty.

To give one shocking example, the number of hospital beds taken up by patients being treated for malnutrition has trebled in recent years.

With the NHS facing the biggest financial squeeze in its history — and as a result staff vacancies reaching 100,000 — we are all facing the consequences of the Tories’ failure when it comes to the NHS.

In contrast during its general election campaign Labour pledged to give the NHS the funding it requires and to join up services in a holistic approach with a properly integrated health and social care service.

Despite what some Tories say a proper funding of healthcare is possible — Germany, for example, spends £23bn more than Britain on its health service every year.

Tory MP Sarah Wollaston rightly said this week the government needs to get a grip of the NHS crisis. To do this they will need to properly fund the public services — if not, they should make way for a Labour government that will secure the future of our NHS.

First published in the Morning Star.