A number of constituents have contacted me to express concern about the Government’s mandate to NHS England for 2018-19, which confirmed that flagship waiting times targets for planned and emergency care have been abandoned for another year.
I share these concerns about the Government’s sustained underfunding and mismanagement of our NHS. NHS England recorded the worst ever A&E performance this winter, with over 1,000 patients being stuck on trolleys for over 12 hours and a 515% increase in patients waiting over four hours, compared with 2011.
The Government’s mandate has not set objectives for either the 18-week referral to treatment target nor the four-hour A&E target to be met within the year. I believe this is a clear admission by Ministers that they are failing to properly fund and resource our NHS.
Despite the very best efforts of our brilliant NHS staff, patients and their families will understandably be concerned by the downturn in standards. It is completely unacceptable for anyone needing urgent treatment to be turned away – patient safety must be an absolute priority – yet ambulance diverts have reached record highs as A&E departments nationwide are under relentless pressure.
The Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) has said patient care will continue to suffer unless funding for healthcare is increased on an urgent basis. In its report, Vision 2020, the RCEM calls for an additional 2,200 A&E consultants, 100 extra training places annually for four years, and more hospital beds.
Labour’s 2017 General Election manifesto pledged an additional £45 billion in the NHS and social care system to give patients the well-resourced services they need. The manifesto also outlined a long-term workforce plan to ensure safe staffing levels and to give staff the support they need. I believe this would have ensured the standards of service to which patients are legally entitled under the NHS constitution, prevented the routine breach of safe levels of bed occupancy, and guaranteed the four-hour A&E target.
I will urge the Government at every opportunity to give the NHS the funding it needs to ensure our health service remains a world class service all year round.