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Aug 21

Standing up for our NHS

Labour NHS summer 2017It was a Labour government which founded the National Health Service, our proudest achievement, and only Labour can be trusted to ensure universal healthcare will continue to be provided for all on the basis of need, free at the point of use.

Seven years of Tory neglect and underinvestment have left our National Health Service in a desperate state, with the mental health crisis deepening, ever more children’s operations being cancelled, lengthening waits to see a health professional, fewer people applying to become nurses and the looming threat of Brexit to our NHS workforce.

Now, over the summer and without proper parliamentary scrutiny, the Tories want to sell-off NHS Professionals, the body that saves the taxpayer around £70 million a year by organising last-minute or replacement staffing for NHS trusts in England, and ensuring hospitals don’t have to rely on expensive private agencies.

The deal is being pushed through behind closed doors with very little clarity for Parliament, taxpayers, NHS patients, or the staff employed at NHS Professionals about what the sale will mean for the future of the organisation.

It is typical of a Tory government that doesn’t really support our NHS.

For instance, since Theresa May became Prime Minister in July 2016 there have been 9,625 cancelled children’s operations. That’s an average of 963 cancelled children’s operations every month of her premiership – and figures uncovered by Labour indicate that cancellations are up by a third since 2014.

Figures I uncovered through Freedom of Information requests show that ambulance staff helped 30,000 more people experiencing a mental health crisis in 2016-17 compared with 2014-15, a strong indication that too many people are not able to access help through their GP or community services. You can read more here.

The government is dismantling the early intervention and prevention services that prevent people reaching a crisis and having to call an ambulance. Officially we’ve lost 6,600 mental health nurses and doctors since 2010. But many other posts remain unfilled too.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt must ring-fence mental health budgets so that funding reaches the frontline. Too much money pledged for mental health is not reaching the sector. In the absence of ring-fenced budgets, funding is being diverted to prop up other areas of the NHS.

By underfunding and overstretching the NHS, the Tories have pushed health services to the brink. It’s why Labour pledged appropriate levels of funding for the NHS in our manifesto and guaranteed the main four-hour A&E target would finally be met again consistently.

Prime Minister Theresa May must give the NHS the support and resources it urgently needs.