NHS winter crisis: Labour demands Government release extra funding in motion passed in Commons

The non-binding motion calls on ministers to increase cash limits for the current year so the health service can reschedule tens of thousands of cancelled procedures

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Wednesday 10 January 2018 18:03
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Jonathan Ashworth demands extra NHS funding amid Winter Crisis

Labour’s motion demanding that the Government releases extra cash to combat the “appalling winter crisis” has passed in the Commons without a vote.

The non-binding motion calls on ministers to increase funds for the current year so the health service can reschedule tens of thousands of cancelled procedures.

It comes after Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, have on multiple occasions been forced to apologise to patients after hospitals were ordered to defer around 55,000 routine operations.

The motion passed without a vote in the Commons after Government whips ordered Conservative MPs to abstain. And while it is symbolic rather than legally binding on the Government, it yet again provides evidence of the fragility of the Prime Minister’s Government.

Mr Hunt will also be under pressure to return to the Commons and provide the Government’s response to motion.

During the Opposition Day Debate, Jonathan Ashworth, the Shadow Health Secretary, accused Conservatives who claimed the winter crisis was “not predictable” and “not preventable” of a “hubristic response”.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Ashworth added: “This is not just a winter crisis. This is an all year round funding crisis, a year round staffing crisis, a year round social care crisis, a year round health inequality crisis – manufactured in Downing Street by this Government.”

He questioned why Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt was still in post, telling the Commons: “Isn't the truth that doctors and nurses have lost confidence in him, patients have lost confidence in him, the Prime Minister it seems has lost confidence in him.

But Mr Hunt warned attempts to “politicise” the pressures on the NHS are a “serious mistake”. He said: ”The last time the NHS had a really difficult flu winter was 2009, and [Mr Ashworth] might know that as he was working in Downing Street at the time.”

Labour's Paula Sherriff said patients were being treated with “no dignity” as a result of funding cutbacks.

She added: “I've heard stories from local hospitals in recent days which include six patients squeezed into four bed bays, with no curtains and no dignity as a result, no lockers and no bells.

“They're actually being given hand bells or told to ask the patient next to them to ring the bell should there be an emergency.”

On Wednesday, the problems facing the health service also dominated the first session of Prime Minister’s Questions in 2018.

The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused Theresa May of diverting hundreds of millions of pounds of NHS cash to private firms, adding that funds are being “siphoned off into the private sector”.

“Under this Government, Virgin Care got £200m worth of contracts in the last year alone – 50 per cent up on the year before,” Mr Corbyn told Mrs May.

“The Prime Minister needs to understand that it’s her policies that are pushing the NHS into crisis.

“Tax cuts for the super-rich and big business are paid for by longer waiting lists, ambulance delays, staff shortages and cuts to social care. Creeping privatisation is dragging our NHS down.”

But Mrs May argued that the increase in NHS cash flowing to private firms “wasn’t under the Conservative Government, it was under a Labour Government”.

And she told MPs: “This Government is putting more money into the NHS. We have seen more doctors in the NHS, more nurses in the NHS, more operations taking place in our NHS, more people being treated in accident and emergency in our NHS."

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