Harriet Harman

Labour Member of Parliament for Camberwell & Peckham

Southwark News Column - Protect our NHS 23/10/2014

The NHS is incredibly important to people and is rightfully one of Britain’s, and Labour’s, proudest achievements. But the NHS today is now one of people’s biggest concerns. People have to struggle to get to see their GP; many are having to wait longer in A&E; operations are being cancelled; and NHS staff are demoralised while billions of pounds are squandered on an NHS reorganisation that no one wants.

Staff are working hard every day despite the chaos inflicted by the Government’s reorganisation which has dragged the NHS down. Patients, doctors and nurses told the Government to stop it - knowing it would cause chaos - but they refused to listen.

Kings has one of the busiest and best A&E departments in London. And they do an excellent job with the resources they have. But they have recently taken on the running of the Princess Royal University Hospital in Bromley and its A&E department, and the challenges it faces are significant.

I’m extremely concerned by the latest figures on waiting times and patients having their operations cancelled. The number of patients waiting over 4 hours in A&E at Kings is currently 7% of those admitted. And since April this year, 331 patients have had their operations cancelled.

People are also finding it harder to see their GP. Many constituents have contacted me directly and a survey at my advice surgery showed over half were not able to get an appointment on the same day and three quarters said they had to wait over 48 hours to get a GP appointment. Most worryingly, over half of the constituents surveyed said they had had to go to A&E because they couldn’t see their GP when they needed to.

NHS midwives, nurses and ambulance crews recently went on strike over their pay and conditions. Local staff at Kings tell me they don’t want to strike, that patient safety always comes first. And they don’t want to hurt Kings because the people who work there love it. Even on the strike day the midwives kept their uniforms on so they'd be ready to rush to a delivery. But they say the Government is not listening to them and that this is the only action they can take.

It is dedicated hospital workers, doctors, and nurses who deliver the NHS. We need to make sure our NHS is strengthened and protected. That is why the next Labour Government will repeal the Health Act which has put the NHS on a fast-track to privatisation. We will restore the core principles of the NHS and make frontline care a priority because we know these are the values the overwhelming majority of the public, NHS staff and patients support.

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