Labour’s NHS promises are not enough

nhs march london

Seven years of Tory funding cuts have driven the NHS into the ground. Spending per patient has fallen, while training and hospital maintenance budgets have been raided in order to keep hospitals from going bankrupt. Rationing hospital services is becoming a norm.

The figures speak for themselves:

• NHS spending per patient has fallen by 9.1%.

• Social care spending has been cut by £5bn since 2010; the annual shortfall will rise to £2.1bn by 2019/20 despite the extra money from the council social care precept. 400,000 older people are denied social care, and while 35% of elderly poor people needed some help with daily activities, only 12% received it.

• In real terms, nurses’ pay has been slashed by £2,300 per annum through the government pay freeze.

• GP vacancies have risen six-fold and nurse vacancies three-fold.

• NHS waiting lists, standing at 3.9 million, are the highest for eight years.

• The number of cancelled operations has risen by 37% while the numbers waiting more than four hours for treatment in A&E have risen ten-fold from 57,841 in 2006/07 to 560,398 in 2016/17.

• More than 360,000 people have waited more than 18 weeks for an operation compared to 160,000 five years ago.

• Despite every effort to limit their rate of increase, the number of A&E attendances rose by 2.8% in 2016/17, and the number of emergency admissions from A&E by 4.2%.

• The number of mental health nurses has fallen by 6,700, making acute mental health services dangerous for staff and patients.

• There will be no extra money for the NHS between 2017/18 and 2019/20, while the overall population will increase by 3% and the number of over-75s by 15%.

Clinical Commissioning Groups are seeking to ration services, targeting smokers and those deemed obese, or through review systems which vet GP referrals. Either way, it is the poor who suffer most.

Labour politicians tell us that the NHS will be safe in their hands. However, it was the last Labour government that forced the health service to use ruinously expensive private finance for major building projects. Labour also encouraged the privatisation of NHS services, and its Independent Sector Treatment Centre programme, which excluded NHS organisations and lavished £5.6bn on private companies between 2003 and 2010, remains the largest NHS privatisation ever. With a 3.1% NHS inflation rate and soaring requirement for emergency treatment, commitments to lift the pay cap and restore bursaries for trainee nurses, Labour manifesto promises of £6bn extra a year will have to be spread very thinly.

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