NHS Winter Crisis

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:01 pm on 10th January 2018.

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Photo of Eleanor Smith Eleanor Smith Labour, Wolverhampton South West 3:01 pm, 10th January 2018

It is a pleasure to follow Dr Murrison.

As a nurse who has worked in the NHS for more than 40 years, I know too well the effects of the winter crisis. Yes, winter is the time when the NHS faces pressures, but the Government have claimed that they were better prepared for this winter crisis, with their national medical director explaining that they had been preparing since last winter. How can that be true when the Government announced that they would postpone non-urgent operations? Not only does that put patients’ physical and mental health at risk, but it creates a backlog of operations, which NHS staff will still have to catch up on.

Unison spoke out about the handling of the NHS only in February last year. It also highlighted the Government’s promise in their manifesto to properly fund the NHS. In their 2017 manifesto, the Government pledged to give the NHS the resources it needs. In the autumn, they also pledged that the NHS would receive an additional £377 million to ease winter pressures, but they failed to disclose the fact that although they are providing funding, they are undercutting that by asking the NHS to make savings in some areas.

Where has the funding the Government provided to ease winter pressures gone? The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust provides services to the hospitals in Wolverhampton that care for patients in my constituency. Hospital staff have been working under increasing pressure, because for more than half the days between 20 November and 31 December last year, bed occupancy in the Wolverhampton trust was above 90%. Over the same period, one in six ambulance handovers were delayed for more than 30 minutes. This would not be happening if, as the Government claim, the NHS was well prepared.

There has been widespread outrage over this winter crisis, but NHS staff have been highlighting the pressures on the NHS throughout the year, and for many years. We have campaigned, met the Minister, written articles and held protests about the Government’s treatment of the NHS and the underfunding over the past seven years. When will the Government face the fact that the funding they have provided is simply not enough?