NHS Winter Crisis

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:03 pm on 10th January 2018.

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Photo of Justin Madders Justin Madders Shadow Minister (Health and Social Care) 4:03 pm, 10th January 2018

We have heard some excellent contributions today. The depth of the crisis is reflected by the fact that no fewer than 38 Members put in to speak, and although we only managed to hear from just over 20 Back-Bench Members, they were from all four corners of England. Owing to the time constraints, I cannot refer to them all, so I will just pick out a few, particularly from those still working in the NHS, such as my hon. Friend Dr Williams, who said it felt like we were going back to the 1990s and that it did not have to be like that—this decline is not inevitable. I totally agree with him on that.

We also heard from my hon. Friend Eleanor Smith, who brought her 40 years of service in the NHS to the fore and made the valid point that cancelling operations now creates a backlog, which will cause problems later on. We know that many trusts are already failing to meet their 18-week target.

Perhaps the most compelling contribution was from my hon. Friend Dr Allin-Khan, who worked in A&E over Christmas. She was absolutely right to say that many people attend A&E because they are not getting the treatment that they need from elsewhere in the system, due to a squeeze on funding. She also made the valid point that many people are not being discharged as quickly as we would like because of massive cuts to social care over the years. Her contribution was excellent, and she made the point that these conditions have arisen not by accident, but because a political choice has been made.

After two years in which the A&E target has been missed altogether, we now know that waiting times shot up in recent weeks. Some hospitals cannot see even half their patients within four hours at A&E. The Secretary of State knows a little about waiting: there was a gap of an hour and 42 minutes between his entering No. 10 on Monday and confirmation that he was continuing in his job. Perhaps he was left waiting in a corridor. I hope that he was at least offered a chair. He would have to double that time, and double it again, to begin to appreciate how long some patients are having to wait, often in great discomfort and pain.

Following the reshuffle on Monday, the Health and Social Care Secretary has had a rebrand, but if it took him over five years to work out that his actions might have some bearing on social care, how much longer will it be before he learns that the message that he hears about underfunding in the NHS is so consistent because it is true? How long before he realises that, on his watch, standards have deteriorated by almost every measure? How long before he realises that the decisions that his Government have taken have led to the litany of woe that we have heard today?