It is an honour to follow Paul Bristow, who made important points about the need in our health and social care system. I look forward to working together to make this Government realise how important health and social care are for the people of this country.
The NHS is in crisis. Trusts across the country are under considerable strain as they seek to absorb additional demands for care, caused largely by the cuts that this Government have made since 2010 and the more than 100,000 vacancies in the NHS workforce. In December, we learned that A&E performance had dropped to 79.8% against the four-hour standard—the worst figures since records began. The Government’s response was not to fix the problem but to scrap the target, which could lead to a near-catastrophic impact on patient safety.
Health and social care provision have been decimated by this Government. We hear the Prime Minister and the Health Secretary crowing about making the “biggest ever cash investment” in the NHS in England. It is too little, too late—and I do not believe that it is true. The Prime Minister announced that 40 new hospitals would be built, and then we found out that there would be only six. It is nowhere near the biggest funding injection into the NHS in real terms when inflation is taken into account. The truth is that, prior to 2010, the long-term funding increases in the NHS were 4% per year. The Tories’ commitment is an increase of just 3.1%, and there have been huge cuts to social care.
We were promised a new plan for social care in December 2016, but still we have nothing. The Prime Minister previously said that he had prepared a “clear plan” to fix the social care crisis. Now we know that there is no plan, let alone a clear one. Last year, 34,860 people died while waiting for a decision on their application for social care. To think that social care could be fobbed off for up to another five years is a disaster for the 1.5 million people who cannot get the care they need today, a disaster for those in my constituency who must travel tens of miles to access in-patient mental health care, and a disaster for patients in my constituency who struggle to access GP services.
The NHS is seeing the first sustained fall in GP numbers in the UK for 50 years. Large workloads and feelings of demoralisation are behind a surge in the number of GPs wanting to quit. It is clear that the Government must be more ambitious on their GP training plans, because right now, eight out of 10 GPs feel unable to deliver safe care. Patients are waiting weeks to get an appointment and are being put at risk.
The investment promised by this Government may well keep our health service on life support, but the service needs real investment to meet the needs of the future and deliver the improvements we want to see to keep our patients safe.