NHS 10-Year Plan

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:06 pm on 19th February 2019.

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Photo of Jon Ashworth Jon Ashworth Shadow Secretary of State for Health 6:06 pm, 19th February 2019

It has been delayed. There are no details about training budgets, because the Department has to wait for the spending review. We have 100,000 vacancies across the national health service, with think-tanks warning that we will have 250,000 vacancies unless we do something. We cannot wait for this workforce plan; we need action now.

Also missing from the long-term plan is any serious investment in public health services—this is picking up on another point that the hon. Member for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich made. Public health services are being cut again this financial year under this Government. When we take into account the cuts to public health services, the cuts to infrastructure, and the cuts to training, there is actually a £1 billion cut to health spending this year. The cuts to public health are equivalent to 1,600 fewer health visitors, 1,700 fewer school nurses, and 3,000 fewer drug workers. They mean that our constituents become sicker and demands on the wider NHS become greater. Drug and alcohol services will be cut by £34 million this year, even though the unmet need for treatment for alcohol problems has risen to 600,000 and admissions to hospital where alcohol is a primary factor have increased by 30%.

Also cut are smoking cessation services and obesity services. Cuts to health visitors and early years initiatives correlate with a fall in vaccination rates. Admissions to hospital for whooping cough are up by 59%. There have been deep cuts to sexual health services at a time when infections such as syphilis and gonorrhoea are increasing. These cuts to sexual health services are having an impact on women’s reproductive health, with experts expressing concerns that the use of long-acting reversible contraception is decreasing. Abortion rates among the over-30s are increasing and 8 million women live in areas where funding for contraception has decreased.

Let me read the House a quick extract from the Health Committee involving my friend—I will still call her my friend—Luciana Berger. I am desperately sad that she felt that she had to leave the Labour party. I hope that the Labour party will get on top of this antisemitism issue. At the Health Committee, she asked about the health consequences of delays in accessing sexual health services. In responding, Dr Olwen Williams from the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV said:

“We are seeing neonatal syphilis for the first time in decades and neonatal deaths due to syphilis in the UK…We are seeing an increase in women presenting with infectious syphilis in pregnancy, and that has dire outcomes.”

These public health cuts were endorsed, not reversed, in the long-term plan.