NHS Winter Crisis

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:08 pm on 10th January 2018.

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Photo of Jon Ashworth Jon Ashworth Shadow Secretary of State for Health 1:08 pm, 10th January 2018

I said that I would not take any more interventions.

The Secretary of State will tell us about the winter funding, but we also know that the winter funding came far too late. NHS Providers has warned that it came far too late in December, and I am sure that many hospital trusts will be telling him privately in his morning phone calls that it came too late. Hospital trusts have to turn to expensive private staffing agencies to get through this winter due to the Government’s failure to invest in an adequate workforce to enable the NHS to deliver the care the nation needs. In many places, NHS trusts are effectively held to ransom by staffing agencies.

Last month, NHS Improvement refused a freedom of information request to publish how much these private agencies are costing individual trusts. Does the Secretary of State agree that that is unacceptable and that we should know how much extra money set aside for winter is going to private agencies? Will he undertake to produce a league table naming and shaming every single agency and stating how much they have been getting from each and every trust, so we can have clarity on this matter?

The Secretary of State will no doubt tell us that the problems we are experiencing have arisen because we have an ageing society. Of course, we see pressures on the service because of the demographics not just in winter, but all year round. Patients with less acuity, often with sometimes three or four comorbidities—in particular, those being treated at this time of year—put huge pressure on the service throughout the year.

However, these demographic changes in society did not just drop out of the blue sky in the last few weeks. We have known about these trends for years and years, which makes it even more criminal that the Government have presided over eight years of underfunding in the NHS—£6 billion of cuts to social care—and have acquiesced in a reduction of 14,000 beds. We will probably see more bed reductions if we pursue the sustainability and transformation plans across the country. We have seen delayed transfers of care increase by 50% these last years.

On social care, the Secretary of State may have the name in his title now, but he has no plan to deal with the severe £6 billion cut we have had to social care in recent years.