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NHS Funding Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:37 pm on 27th January 2020.

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Photo of Jon Ashworth Jon Ashworth Shadow Secretary of State for Health 5:37 pm, 27th January 2020

The Secretary of State talks about recruiting all these new GPs. The Tories fought the 2015 general election on delivering 5,000 extra GPs, but GP numbers have gone down. Now he is imposing pension tax arrangements that are driving GPs and other doctors out of the NHS or driving them to cut back on their shifts. He has no solution to that and, again, it was another one of George Osborne’s ideas—the Secretary of State probably came up with it when he was George Osborne’s bag carrier—so I do not believe anything he says on recruiting extra GPs.

The 4% increase is the historic increase that the NHS used to get throughout its 61 years until the coalition Government were elected. That is why we tabled an amendment in the debate on the Loyal Address calling for the 4% increase. Every Tory Member voted against it, but a 4% increase is what the NHS traditionally got—indeed the previous Labour Government gave it 6%. Instead, we have now had a decade of decline where it received an uplift of about 1.5%. This Tory decade of decline with 1.5% increases is why the funding settlement is inadequate, because it simply cannot make up for that decade the NHS has gone through. This Bill simply cannot make up for the decade of decline in which those gains in quality care and outcomes made by the last Labour Government have been squandered by this Tory Government. The Bill cannot make up for the decade of decline where these Ministers forced the NHS through the tightest financial squeeze in its history, which has left hospital trusts with deficits of £571 million and billions in debt, and left the NHS facing a repair bill of £6.6 billion, leaving hospitals with roofs leaking, pipes bursting, equipment faulty, IT systems breaking and ligature points in mental health trusts deeply unsafe. This decade of decline means the NHS is short today of 106,000 staff and our brilliant NHS staff are being pushed to the brink every week, working a million hours extra than they are contracted to work. They are working every hour God sends to make up for the austerity these Ministers have imposed.

The speech we have just heard from the Secretary of State bears no resemblance to the realities of what is happening on the ground after the decade of decline under the Tories. Month after month, week after week, we see NHS performance data showing our hospitals recording the worst performance on record against the four-hour standard for accident and emergency. Month after month, we see the number of people on the waiting lists for routine surgery and treatment rising—it is has now risen to 4.4 million. More than 690,000 of our constituents are waiting beyond 18 weeks for treatment. That is an increase of more than 185,000—a 37% increase—since this Secretary of State took up his post. Waits for diagnostic tests are at their highest levels for a decade, cancer waiting times are their worst on record and we are bottom of the league for cancer outcomes.

Since 2010, more than 17,000 beds have been cut. Hospitals are dangerously overcrowded. Patients are left languishing for hours as trolley waits, being moved from cubicle to corridor in need of a bed. We read in the newspapers about 90-year-old war veterans left for hours upon hours on trolleys. We see photos of toddlers treated on floors or sleeping in makeshift beds on chairs. Trolley waits are not some inconvenience for patients; they lead to increased mortality in our hospitals. Research from the Royal College of Emergency Medicine shows that almost 5,500 patients have died in the past three years because they have spent so long on a trolley waiting for a bed in an overcrowded hospital. That is utterly unacceptable.