Ten days ago the Tories admitted to the Times newspaper that “NHS reforms have been our worst mistake”. And we can see the results for ourselves.
Since 2010 there have been 440 reorganisations of our health service costing £3 billion. So much for “No top-down reorganisation of the NHS”. Senior NHS managers’ pay has risen by almost three times as much as nurses’ salaries since the general election. 44% of NHS workers are now working up to 5 hours unpaid overtime a week, saving the NHS £1.5bn a year. Yet Jeremy Hunt responds by freezing their wages.
In a recent snapshot, 5,600 A&E patients were waiting up to 12 hours for beds, double the numbers seen in previous years. Locally our A&E in the city is constantly in Code Black, while collectively Surrey & Sussex NHS Trusts are £16.4 million in the red. Spending on private ambulances has increased by 82 per cent in two years.
Nationally 500 GP practices are at risk of closure – one in my ward is going in February, and GP appointment times are spiralling, with four in ten GPs predicting the average waiting time for appointments at their practice will exceed two weeks from next April.
And then we have a social care system “running on empty… malnourished, reliant on minimum wage and zero hours contracts.”
Now the Government is planning to sell off staff supply agency NHS Professionals, which has roughly 40,000 nurses, doctors, midwives and other healthcare workers on its books and which filled 21.5 million hours of staffing requirements, including 350,000 same-day requests for shift work. Does it make a loss? No, it actually saves the NHS almost £11 million a year.
According the BMA and the RCN the “The damage done to the NHS has been profound and intense”, with it now at “breaking point” with its “founding principles” now at stake, “buckling under the twin crises of rising demand and flat-lining budgets”.
Recent polls show the NHS is now the number one concern for voters, with almost 60% prepared to pay more tax to maintain the current level of care and services provided. By 4 to 1, people think the NHS is worse under David Cameron. 51% don’t believe he’s personally committed to it.
Andy Burnham has pledged that Labour will “remove the market from the NHS”, creating an ever-greater cradle-to-grave service that will eventually include integrated universal, free provision of care to the elderly.
Labour will guarantee no-one will have to wait longer than one week for cancer tests and results by 2020. A Labour government will deliver £2.5bn in additional funding per year, 20,000 more nursing posts, 5,000 more care workers, 3,000 more midwives and 8,000 more GPs.
Labour’s commitment to a free-at-the-point of use health service is absolute. Only Labour can deliver all this, because only Labour, not the Greens, are an alternative to the current Tory led government. Only Labour can and will repeal the Health and Social Care Act.
And what front the Greens have in bringing this motion today, when we saw just seven days ago in this very chamber the response from service users, from health care worker unions and from Defend the NHS their views on Green proposals for health and social care services, despite the risks in outsourcing. Utter hypocrisy from a Green Party that says one thing to score points and win votes, yet does the opposite when in office. Had they any shame at all they would have withdrawn this motion.
The Greens can’t save the NHS from Tory destruction, Labour will. I’m proud to stand on Labour’s record on the NHS, our actions to defend it, and our commitment to save it.
(Speech to Brighton and Hove City Council meeting, October 23rd)