Jon Trickett MP writes: At the weekend the government declared a national emergency in response to unprecedented high temperatures across the country.
Earlier in the week, it was announced that every ambulance service in the country had already declared a critical incident status due to an increase in Covid-related hospitalisations and staff shortages.
With the NHS already under severe strain I fear that many people hospitalised as a result of the heatwave will not have received the urgent care they need. Our dedicated NHS staff are committed to the highest quality of care but they currently lack the resources and capacity they need.
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The Tory government’s record on the NHS is abysmal. For more than a decade it has been underfunded relative to need.
Staff pay has fallen in real terms, which has contributed to demoralisation among the workforce and an increasing number of NHS functions have been privatised or outsourced.
Around £204 billion has been spent on private contracts between 2013 and 2020, which is nearly 19 per cent of the total Department for Health and Social Care budget. I believe that patient care has suffered as a result.
When the Tories took office in 2010, the number of people waiting for routine treatment in the NHS stood at 2.5 million. Before the pandemic the waiting lists had grown to 4.5 million. Now the figure is 6.5 million and rising.
There are 1,134 fewer GP practices in England and 1,622 fewer fully qualified GPs since 2015. As a result there are 2,026 more patients per GP in England. The public is not receiving the care they need, when they need it.
Analysis published in The Lancet public health journal by the University of Oxford shows that the increase in outsourcing to the private for-profit sector in England has corresponded with an increase in the number of patients dying of treatable causes.
Rather than face up to the reality of these failures, the Tories resort to lying about their record. How many people have heard the claim that the government is building 40 new hospitals?
According to the respected Nuffield Trust, a new hospital is “a new building on an entirely new site”. By this definition, only three new hospitals have been built. No matter how the Tories spin it, this is not a record to be proud of.
The government must take immediate action to get us through the current crisis in the NHS.
The government has taken £60bn extra in tax receipts as a result of inflation. This money should be directed to the NHS, not used to give tax breaks to the richest as the candidates vying for the Tory leadership are calling for.
But we also need a serious plan to rebuild the capacity of the NHS for the long term.
First, the government must increase the NHS budget to reflect the post-Covid world and recruit high quality staff to tackle growing waiting lists. Second, our overworked NHS staff need an inflation-proof pay rise. Third, the government must end damaging privatisation.
These are the building blocks for repairing our National Health Service so that we can keep our people healthy and safe.