The Labour Party has been critical of Prime Minister Theresa May’s statement that there will be no additional cash boost for the NHS in the Autumn Statement.
It had been hoped that the outcome of Brexit would force the government’s hand into an investment-based strategy for the healthcare system.
But Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s shadow Health Secretary has opined that in the NHS is dangerously overstretched, and suggested that the government has failed to address the situation adequately.
Indeed, Ashworth argued that blame for the situation can be reasonably and primarily apportioned to the government itself, stating that the problems are of the “government’s own making”.
“The NHS is facing a funding crisis with hospitals, GP surgeries and social care dangerously overstretched Just last week we were warned the social care sector was on the verge of ‘tipping point’. One in four patients are waiting a week or more to see their GP, or not getting an appointment at all, and thousands of patients are waiting hours in A&E and hospital trolleys,” Ashworth asserted.
“The crisis is of this Government’s own making and it’s up to Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt to take action…the Tories promised during the last election they’d properly fund our NHS. This is yet another example of Tory broken promises,” Ashworth added.
Medics had already warned that critical NHS systems are close to breaking point, and that staff reductions and redundancies are on the cards if further investment is not allocated to the healthcare system.
But an NHS source close to the government told the The Guardian newspaper that there are no plans to increase funding.
“No 10’s message at the meeting was quite blunt and stark: that there will be no more money. Theresa May and Philip Hammond say that they presided over big efficiency programmes at the Home Office and MoD and didn’t whinge about it. Their view is that the NHS is already doing very well, but that’s head in the sand stuff.”
Dr Mark Holland, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, has already made bleak prognostications for the prospects of the NHS this winter.
“The NHS is on its knees and, this winter, areas will implode around the country. There is no reserve left. We coined the phrase ‘eternal winter’ months ago in relation to increasingly poor performance and this data is clear evidence that is what we are now dealing with. Over the coming weeks and months, if we see a major increase in admissions due to flu or bed closures due to norovirus, we will collapse”.
Holland also characterised the attitude of the government as bordering on negligent.
“The Government has failed to acknowledge or address the scale of the crisis in social care and delayed discharges and, at present, I see no plan of action in place to prevent it derailing the health service. If we are unable to discharge patients and release pressure on our emergency departments and acute medical units at the front door, the system grinds to a halt”.
NHS trusts accrued a collective deficit of £2.5 billion during the previous financial year.
The National Health Service will receive an investment worth nearly £300 million according to new draft spending plans drawn up by the Welsh administration.
Finance Minister Jane Hutt told members of the Welsh parliaments that the 2016/17 draft budget backed Labour’s “priorities for Wales and its future”.
As a result of the new spending plans, the amount of being spent on healthcare overall will rise by in excess of 4 per cent.
It is hoped that the extra funds will provide a significant boost to healthcare in Wales.
Nonetheless, despite the promise of extra funding for the Welsh NHS, the Conservative Opposition suggested that the spending plans were inadequate.
Tories stated that the spending plan was “too little, far too late for our hardworking NHS staff”.
Of the overall amount pledged, the Welsh government has already confirmed that in the region of £260 million will be set aside for day-to-day expenditure on NHS services.
Meanwhile, over £30 million has been earmarked for expenditure on infrastructure, maintaining the existing NHS estate and purchasing additional equipment.
In order to balance the books, the Welsh assembly has also announced efficiency savings of £50 million within the health service.
Finance Minister Jane Hutt commented on her responsibility to protect the services that mattered most to people, within the financial constraints of the Welsh government.
“It has been another challenging settlement which has been set against the backdrop of successive real terms cuts to our Budget over the last five years. We have continued our record investment in health with more than a quarter of a billion pounds going to the Welsh NHS in 2016-17 – demonstrating our wider approach to the health and social care and the value of preventative spend.”
Despite the apparent improvement in health funding in Wales, the Conservative Opposition was unsurprisingly scathing about the government policy.
Conservative Shadow Finance Minister Nick Ramsay suggested that the plans represented a piecemeal response to years of neglect for the NHS in Wales.
“Hospital downgrading, huge delays in waiting times, a failure to recruit staff; this chaos is a direct result of Labour’s record-breaking NHS budget cuts. By failing to protect the budget, our health service has been starved of £1bn since 2010/11,” Ramsay remarked.
But Ramsay represented pretty much a lone voice of dissent in the Welsh assembly.
By contrast, Plaid Cymru AM Alun Ffred Jones was appreciative of the extra cash to being promised to the NHS in Wales.
James particularly hopes that the extra cash could be pledged towards the process of reducing waiting times within the Welsh health service.
“I do very much hope that this will enable waiting lists to be substantially reduced, in light of the harsh criticism of the Royal College of Surgeons in their statement yesterday.”
BMA council chair Dr Mark Porter has responded to today’s announcement that responsibility for Greater Manchester’s £6bn health and social care budget is to be handed to councils and health groups in the region.
Dr Porter said: “There is no doubt that patients would benefit from more joined-up health and social care. However, any plans to do so would have to be underpinned by clear funding to ensure that an already dangerously over-stretched NHS budget isn’t used to prop up a woefully underfunded social care budget.
“These wide sweeping changes will affect millions of people. We need to look carefully at exactly how they will affect the commissioning and delivery of services, and what the impact on patient care will be. We must also ensure clinicians have a central role in decisions over health care, something which was undermined by the Health and Social Care Act 2012.
“We need assurances on who is responsible if these changes go wrong. Doctors believe the secretary of state for health should have the duty to provide a universal and comprehensive health service, and must take responsibility for guaranteeing national standards in the of quality care across the country, especially if the delivery of care is to be devolved to local authorities.
“The NHS has just undergone unprecedented upheaval, there must be no more games with our health service and we need to avoid a situation where the NHS moves from being a national to a local political football.”