The NHS is going through a serious winter crisis in which the number of patients being turned away from A&E and sent to other hospitals is at a record high. Here in Liverpool, I have written to the Royal Hospital’s Chief Executive after I was told about patients treated in the backs of ambulances and elective surgery, including some cancer operations cancelled. The Royal is not unique – dedicated staff being let down by a funding crisis, increasing numbers of people with mental health problems attending A&E, and cuts to local authority social care all contributing to increasing pressure for bed spaces. Huge numbers of patients are facing long waits for a bed and spending too long on trolleys waiting to be admitted.
I have made it clear that the constituents who have contacted me have been full of praise for the kindness and dedication of staff, but are dismayed at the state of our NHS. These views reflect my own experience of using the NHS.
This winter crisis is a sign of wider problems. The NHS is going through the largest financial squeeze in its history and we have seen £4.6 billion cut from social care budgets. On Wednesday January 11 I supported an Opposition motion which called for extra funding for social care to be brought forward to help hospitals cope this winter, and for a new funding settlement for the NHS and social care to be part of the March Budget. I was disappointed that the government opposed the motion – it is wrong for it to continue to ignore calls for extra funding for the NHS.
Concerns have also been raised by senior clinicians about the impact the predicted severe weather could have on making this crisis worse. I am disappointed that instead of dealing with the problems, the Health Secretary has suggested that the four hour A&E target should be downgraded and no longer apply to minor injuries, while the Prime Minister has sought to blame GP opening times for the crisis.
The government needs to bring forward a plan for how it will tackle this crisis. I will keep putting pressure on it to take action.