The NHS as we know it can’t survive five more years of David Cameron!
Before the last election, he promised to protect the NHS. And he pledged “no more top-down NHS reorganisations that get in the way of patient care”. But he’s broken these most personal promises and now we’re seeing a serious deterioration.
Patients’ rights are enshrined in the NHS constitution but 15 have been breached under this government – including those that set maximum waiting times of four hours at Accident and Emergency, 62 days for cancer treatment and six weeks for diagnostic tests.
In recent days one in ten people have had to wait for more than four hours to be seen at Rotherham Hospital A&E – up by two-and-a-half times in the last year alone. And Barnsley Hospital is also struggling.
The Conservatives will not make the commitment the NHS needs. They want to cut public spending further – to levels not seen since the 1930s when the NHS did not exist.
Their disastrous top-down NHS reorganisation, deep cuts to social care and reduced GP access are all piling extra pressure on our health service, while their privatisation of NHS services gathers pace.
If NHS standards carry on falling, by 2020 we would see more than half a million older people no longer getting social care, waiting lists for tests or treatment reaching four million and over twenty million patients left waiting for a week or more to see a GP.
When I led for Labour as shadow health secretary in 2010, I warned the government to focus on patient care.
But they forced the Health and Social Care Act through Parliament, wasting £3 billion that should have been spent on patients, and opening up the NHS to the full force of competition law.
In the 18 months since the Act became law, private companies like Virgin Health and Care UK have won 131 NHS service contracts worth £2.6 billion. And the Tories are set to double the scale of privatisation with more than 4,000 private sector contracts likely over the next five years – £10 billion-plus of the NHS budget will be spent on private health care firms.
Contrast this with Labour’s record. When Labour left office, patient satisfaction was at its highest ever and waiting times at a record low. Yes, we used the private sector at the margins, but only to add extra capacity to treat patients or do things the NHS couldn’t.
The NHS is our country’s greatest collective commitment to each other, guaranteeing treatment on basis of need not ability to pay. It embodies the difference in values and vision between Labour and the Tories. We saved the NHS before after years of Tory government. And there is a clear choice at the coming election,