Theresa May is “in denial” over the crisis facing the NHS and scapegoating health professionals with a demand to move to a seven day-a-week opening for GP surgeries, Jeremy Corbyn has said.
In his second major speech of 2017, the Labour leader also reiterated his calls to take failing private care homes and the railways into public ownership. He added that 380 care home businesses have been declared insolvent since 2010 and that the social care system is at “serious risk of breakdown” unless more money is invested.
His speech – part of his relaunch and attempt to build on a populist momentum – came after Ms May expressed frustration at the failure of more GP practices to offer extended opening hours, amid intensifying pressure on NHS hospital services.
Downing Street warned surgeries in England, which refuse to move to opening 8am to 8pm, seven days a week will lose funding unless they can prove there is no demand from patients.
But Mr Corbyn criticised the warning, adding: “The Prime Minister tells us this morning that the real reason we have a crisis in the NHS is not because her Government has slashed billions from social care budgets and underfunded our health service.
“No. She’s told her No 10 advisors to tell the media the real people to blame are the hard pressed and under pressure GPs. The BMA has accused the prime minister of scapegoating overstretched GP services and deflecting blame because funding is not keeping up with demand. This is another example of a prime minister in denial.”
Speaking to around 300 people at the Fabian Society, he added: “A Prime Minister who would much rather listen to spin doctors than real doctors.”
The Labour leader also pointed to figures from the Care Quality Commission which found last year that one in five nursing homes did not have sufficient staff on duty to ensure residents received good, safe care.
“Labour will not let the elderly down, people who've worked all their lives, paid their taxes and made a massive contribution to society,” he said.
“So a Labour government would give social care the funding it needs and give a firm commitment to take failed private care homes into public ownership to maintain social care protection.
“It's the least we can do to guarantee dignity for people who've given so much to our country.”
On the railways, Mr Corbyn, who was welcomed on stage by Kate Green, the MP who ran Owen Smith’s unsuccessful leadership bid, said the party was committed to bringing the “shambolic” private train system back into public ownership.
“That’s not ideological, it’s straightforwardly logical,” he said.
“When Labour took the East Coast line into public ownership, over six years it delivered a better service, improved passenger satisfaction and gave £1 billion in profit back to the taxpayer”.
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