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26.09.17

Labour calls for £500m NHS bailout to avoid another winter crisis

Labour will call for a £500m bailout for the NHS to avoid another winter crisis during its party conference today, claiming that 10,000 people each day will wait at least four hours for treatment in A&E without the additional funding.

This follows the government’s announcement that they will inject an extra £13m into 19 hospitals in a bid to meet ease the strain of winter.

Speaking at the Labour Party Conference today, Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, will say that Theresa May’s first winter as prime minister has seen NHS patients suffer the worst winter on record – the number of patients waiting more than 12 hours for emergency treatment during the cold season, for example, has soared by 10,546% over the past five years.

Speaking before his speech, Ashworth said: “Last winter, Theresa May stuck her head in the sand and refused to give the NHS the money it needed to keep services running properly.

“This decision pushed NHS staff beyond their limits and caused misery for patients in every part of the country. It can't be allowed to happen again.

“Labour is calling for a comprehensive package of emergency support, including a new £500m winter bailout fund, to urgently be put in place so that patients don't suffer the same pain as last year all over again.

“It is not acceptable for the government to stumble into another NHS winter crisis – they've been well warned and need to take action now.”

Last winter patient safety was compromised as the NHS had to provide an additional 4,500 beds a day with insufficient funding and staffing levels.

Dr. Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, welcomed the plea for additional funds, but added that more must be done to prevent the NHS from buckling under the strain.

“While the government needs to urgently outline plans to support the NHS going into the winter period, the NHS also needs politicians of all parties to end the pattern of short-termism that plagues NHS policymaking,” he stated.

“Long-term investment and workforce planning are urgently needed; especially as recent figures show that three in four medical specialties are facing a shortage of doctors. If spending on the NHS matched that of other leading EU countries, then patients would see £15bn extra investment in the English NHS within five years. This additional funding could be used to provide tens of thousands of extra hospital beds, recruit thousands more GPs and reverse the cuts made to the public health budget rather than slashing budgets further.

“The NHS is at breaking point because, quite simply, investment isn’t keeping up with demand. We need the government to urgently look at the long-term funding, capacity and recruitment issues facing the health system as a whole if we are to get to grips with the pressures the NHS faces year in, year out.”

The chief executive of the Nuffield Trust, Nigel Edwards, agreed with the BMA that despite the £6bn budgetary black hole trusts reportedly face this year, a one-off “financial bung” will not solve systemic problems.

“The shortages of beds and staff have been years in the making, and cannot simply be reversed in a few months,” argued Edwards. “We need a long-term funding settlement for health and social care so that the NHS can actually plan on the basis of having enough resources. All political parties have been avoiding this question for too long.”

(Top image c. Alphotographic)

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