It is a pleasure to follow that thorough speech by John Howell.
On Monday, I asked the then Minister of State, Mr Dunne, what the Government were doing about the crisis in the ambulance service. He responded by saying that a new ambulance response programme has been introduced to try to deal with category 1 calls more rapidly. The reality is that two months after so-called improvements were put in place in the north-east, an elderly constituency of mine who collapsed in his own home on new year’s day had to wait 14 hours for an ambulance.
Last week, in the intensive care unit at the University Hospital of North Tees in Stockton, two people died from influenza on the same day. One of them was a constituent of mine. On new year’s eve, I attended the urgent care centre at the University Hospital of Hartlepool and then the ambulatory care unit at Stockton with my son. The car parks were crammed full, the sick were presenting themselves thick and fast, and the ambulances were once again backed up. When will the Government admit that this is not just a winter crisis, but a crisis in our NHS full stop—a crisis of their own making?