I want to begin by speaking about the NHS as experienced by my constituents. Getting an appointment to see a GP can be very difficult because recruitment of doctors in Burnley and Padiham is an enormous problem and many posts remain unfilled. This is not a temporary situation; this is how it is all the time.
The fact is staff do their best, but they are not magicians. Too often patients requesting an appointment are told to phone back the following day at 8.30 am and hope for a cancellation, and heaven forbid that a patient should want to have some continuity of care. This is especially difficult for the elderly and those suffering with mental illness. I tell the Minister that they really need to see a familiar face, and to have access to a GP with whom they have an established rapport. Sadly, they are denied this.
Unplanned admissions to hospital are also difficult. Patients often wait for hours on trolleys in cubicles and draughty corridors until a bed is available. This bed queue is the direct result of the fact that there is a shocking shortage of quality support for the elderly and mentally ill in need of care in the community.
The elderly and mentally ill really do bear the brunt of an NHS in crisis. Every week in my surgery I hear of their suffering at the hands of a poorly resourced and inadequately staffed NHS. One lady told me only a couple of days ago that she took her daughter, who is self-harming and threatening to hang herself, to the mental health crisis unit. The unit was so busy that she had to wait 23 hours for a diagnosis, after which it was decided that she needed to be sectioned and admitted. For the next four days, because no bed was available, she slept in an easy-chair. At that point a bed was found in Potters Bar, London. The family of this lady, including her five-year-old daughter, live in Burnley, at a distance of over 200 miles. They cannot afford the train journey to visit her.
I mention all of this not as a criticism of any of our NHS workers—far from it; they are at the sharp end doing their best in an impossible situation. They work in the health service because they care, and it pains them to see patients treated in this way. I mention all of this, none of which is untypical, because it is this misery that the Brexit campaign spoke to.
The leading Brexiteers, who have been mentioned in this place already today, played out the most cruel deception. They promised in their campaign that if the UK left Europe the NHS would receive a funding boost of £350 million per week. This untruth—that is what it was—was not a mistake or a miscalculation, although it was totally reprehensible; it was a deliberate attempt to deceive the British public. When deception of this magnitude is pedalled by senior people, some of them Government members, who could blame people for believing that they would get a better NHS outside Europe?
Only hours after the referendum result was known the Brexit camp withdrew this promise of extra NHS funding because, of course, the fact is that it is this Conservative Government who starve the NHS of funding, not the EU.