Labour criticises Theresa May for 'ruling out extra NHS funds'

Party responds to reports that NHS chief has been told there will be no extra money, despite warnings of escalating problems

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The Independent Online

Labour has called on the Government to promise extra funds for the NHS, after reports emerged that Theresa May has told the head of the NHS that no cash boost will come in next month's autumn statement.  

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s shadow Health Secretary has said the health service is "dangerously overstretched" and that the Prime Minister and Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary must take action

He added that the crisis currently engulfing the NHS was of the "government's own making". 

The statement comes after reports in The Guardian that Simon Stevens, head of NHS England, met with Theresa May on 8 September and was reportedly told there would be no new funding but he should not seek more than the £10bn extra a year that the Government has promised by 2020.. 

Downing Street said it would not comment on private meetings, but Mr Ashworth said that more need to be done. 

“The NHS is facing a funding crisis with hospitals, GP surgeries and social care dangerously overstretched," he said.

"Just last week we were warned the social care sector was on the verge of ‘tipping  point’. One in four patients are waiting a week or more to see their GP, or not getting an appointment at all, and thousands of patients are waiting hours in A&E and hospital trolleys. 

“The crisis is of this Government’s own making and it’s up to Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt to take action... The Tories promised during the last election they’d properly fund our NHS. This is yet another example of Tory broken promises,” Mr Ashworth added.

Medics have also warned the service is already at breaking point and any further lack of support could mean staff reductions, closures and reduced access and services - which would have a hugely negative effect on patients. 

But an NHS source with knowledge of the meeting between Mr Stevens and Ms May told the The Guardian: “No 10’s message at the meeting was quite blunt and stark: that there will be no more money. 

“Theresa May and Philip Hammond say that they presided over big efficiency programmes at the Home Office and MoD and didn’t whinge about it. Their view is that the NHS is already doing very well, but that’s head in the sand stuff.”

The revelations come soon after one health expert warned parts of the NHS "will implode" in the winter of 2016.

Dr Mark Holland, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said the days when summer used to provide a respite for busy emergency departments have now gone, and instead the NHS faces an "eternal winter".

New figures showed waiting times in A&E units this summer have been worse than for most winters for over a decade.

One in 10 patients waited for more than four hours in A&E during June, July and August - worse than any winter for the last 12 years bar one, an analysis by the BBC showed.

Only last winter marked a worse performance since the target was launched in 2004.

Data from NHS England for the summer also showed hospitals are missing key targets for cancer, routine operations and ambulance response times.

Delayed discharges - where patients are struck in hospital despite being medically fit to leave - continued to rise, with a record high during August.

Dr Holland said: "The NHS is on its knees and, this winter, areas will implode around the country. There is no reserve left.

"We coined the phrase ‘eternal winter’ months ago in relation to increasingly poor performance and this data is clear evidence that is what we are now dealing with.

"Over the coming weeks and months, if we see a major increase in admissions due to flu or bed closures due to norovirus, we will collapse.

"The Government has failed to acknowledge or address the scale of the crisis in social care and delayed discharges and, at present, I see no plan of action in place to prevent it derailing the health service.

"If we are unable to discharge patients and release pressure on our emergency departments and acute medical units at the front door, the system grinds to a halt."

Press Association contributed to this report. 

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