How long can Theresa May continue to dodge responsibility?by Jonathan Ashworth / January 24, 2017 / Leave a comment
The NHS has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons at the start of the year. Chronic underfunding by the government, and Prime Minister Theresa May’s inept refusal to bring forward a rescue package, have left health service staff and their patients under unprecedented pressure.
The refusal to pay the bills explains a large part of the challenge, but it’s not just about the money. It’s also because the Prime Minister doesn’t know what she’s doing with the health service—and doesn’t see it as a priority to understand the problems that are mounting up.
You’ve heard about the difficulties already. Ambulances being diverted and patients being treated in corridors. In December, 50 of 152 English hospital trusts called for urgent action to cope with demand in the run-up to Christmas; A&E departments have turned patients away more than 140 times; 15 hospitals ran out of beds in one day.
Almost a quarter of patients waited longer than four hours in A&E at the start of January, with just one hospital hitting its target. Since the start of December, hospitals have seen only 82.3 per cent of patients who attended A&E within the four-hour target. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s local hospital, the Royal Surrey in Guildford, declared an alert after patients were left without beds and had to be treated in a gym instead.
But the government’s response has been one of utter complacency. Hunt said that things had been “falling over in a couple of places.” May told the Commons it was just a “small number of incidents.” Rather than confront the problems, Hunt’s response to the NHS crisis was to downgrade the four-hour A&E target. This is a startling admission of failure.
The Prime Minister says demand is greater than ever before, but doesn’t look for the reasons why. The NHS is experiencing the largest financial squeeze in its history and £4.6bn has been cut from social care provision since 2011. One in ten residential homes have closed since the Tories came to power and the total number of beds available in care homes has fallen by 19,490. It has got harder to see a GP, with up to one in four people waiting a week or more, or not getting an appointment at all.
A&Es are packed because cuts to…