As always when there is a Tory government, local people and local hospitals suffer, waiting lists for operations grow and more operations are cancelled.
For every delayed or cancelled operation there is a human impact. In the last year at King’s College Hospital, 928 operations were cancelled for non-medical reasons — 4x as many as in 2009 when Labour were last in government. The Prime Minister talked about cancelled operations being “part of the plan”. We can never let there be a plan with cancelled operations as part of it. For the individual concerned, there is the psychological impact of gearing themselves up for an operation and then finding it cancelled, everything is organised around it, including time off work, their family taking time off work or coming to stay when they are recovering. Prompt treatment allows people to get on with their lives.
King’s College Hospital and its dedicated staff are enormously important, both as a centre of international excellence and of local necessity - at the heart of GP services, social care and mental health services and are doing all they can to maintain standards of care. But the Government have been imposing deep cuts at King’s at a time when more patients are coming through the door and there is less money per person.
When Labour left government King’s was rated excellent and one of the top hospitals in the country by the Care Quality Commission. Now after 7 years of Tory government it’s dropped to ‘requires improvement.’ This is not King’s fault, it is the government’s fault. Although King’s critical care has improved since 2015 and care for patients with dementia and major incident response was rated outstanding, this week it was announced by the Care Quality Commission that King’s College Hospital’s rating will remain as ‘requires improvement’.
You cannot improve an organisation by cutting it to the bone. In the last 2 years, King’s has already cut £80 million, double the average rate of other hospitals. On 16th January in the debate called by local MP for Dulwich and Norwood, Helen Hayes, on King’s finances, I spoke in Parliament to stress that the problem at King’s is not the leadership, or the growing number of patients, or the dedicated staff, it is about lack of money. I am dismayed the government has allowed a tone of blaming King’s leadership to creep into debate. Funding pressures are being felt right across the country in the NHS.
King’s A & E department is facing additional increasing pressure because of wider cuts, which have stretched local mental health and GP services. Mental health services are essential in preventing children and adults reaching crisis point but Tory cuts since 2010 have left the South London and Maudsley Trust with 112 fewer mental health nurses and a 23% staff shortage, with over 1,000 vacancies. These cuts cause more distress to patients and end up costing the taxpayer more by increasing pressure on A & E departments as people have to go to hospital to get help. That’s why I’m backing Labour’s call for the government to ring-fence mental health budgets to protect patient care.
I met with the new interim Chair of King’s, Ian Smith, on 23rd January and stressed that he and his team have my full support to fight to improve services, but it is vital that the government now does the same and makes it clear they are on King’s side. I am writing to the Health Secretary to ask him to guarantee that King’s are not forced to make cuts that will take us back to the situation we had under the last Tory Government in the 1980s, when people routinely spent all night on trolleys in King’s accident and emergency. Years of Labour investment from 1997 transformed King’s so that by 2010 it was meeting all of its main waiting time targets, but once again now, almost 1 in 5 patients at A & E have to wait more than 4 hours to be seen and King’s is regularly more than 100% full, with meeting rooms and storage space used for beds.
In 2018 my priority for my constituency work is the NHS, and I will be working with patients, staff, unions, local Southwark MPs Helen Hayes and Neil Coyle, Southwark Council and Southwark Clinical Commissioning Group to ensure the government gives King’s, SLaM and primary care services the resources they need to protect patient care.