As we look forward to celebrating the centenary of London’s Kings College Hospital, we are also celebrating the 65th birthday of the NHS.
The NHS was founded sixty-five years ago by a Labour Government that recognised Britain needed a health service that was available to everyone according to their need and regardless of their ability to pay.
The NHS remains an incredible institution to this day and is rightfully one of Britain’s, and Labour’s, proudest achievements. But the NHS today is suffering from an A&E crisis that proves the Tories can’t be trusted with our health service.
Rather than focussing on the frontline, David Cameron is spending £3billion of taxpayers' money on an unnecessary, unwanted top-down reorganisation of the NHS that nobody voted for and that he promised wouldn't happen. Nationally we’ve also lost 4,000 nurses, seen ambulance queues double and now A&E waiting times are at a nine-year high.
The A&E crisis has been caused by the Tories’ devastating cuts to elderly care. Fewer older people are getting the care they need at home, meaning more have to be admitted to hospital and more get stuck in hospital beds at the end of their treatment. And with hospital beds not being freed up, the pressure backs up through A&E, which can't then admit new patients to the ward.
I am extremely concerned by the worrying increase in patients having their operations cancelled at Kings College Hospital. The number trebled last year. Kings was in a terrible state before 1997 with overcrowding and patients left waiting in corridors.
My worry is that with this Tory Government’s focus on reorganisation, we are slipping back to the dark days before Labour put money into Kings to modernise it and raise standards. This week Tessa Jowell and myself are meeting Kings top managers to plan how we can work together to protect and improve Kings services.
I want to see the Government implement Labour's 5 point plan for relieving the pressure on our hospitals, sorting out the 111 service, tackling staff shortages and reviewing all planned A&E closures and downgrades including Lewisham hospital which if it goes ahead will have a massive knock-on effect on Kings A&E which is already overstretched.
To protect the NHS from the immediate crisis, Labour would use the ‘underspends’ in the NHS budget to put an extra billion pounds into social care over each of the next two years. This extra investment comes from the money the Chancellor could have spent on the NHS but chose not to and would relieve the pressure on A&Es as well as helping more elderly people stay healthy and independent in their own homes.
Labour created the NHS in 1948, and it is one of our proudest achievements. Its 65th birthday is an opportunity to celebrate, but if we’re going to commemorate future milestones then we need to make sure our NHS is strengthened and protected.