Government ‘systematic underfunding’ to blame for NHS humanitarian crisis, Labour says

The Government has been accused of being misleading over how much it spends on the NHS

Jon Stone
Political Correspondent
Saturday 07 January 2017 12:02 GMT
Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary
Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary (Reuters)

Labour has accused the Government of pushing the NHS to “breaking point” with a lack of funding after the British Red Cross declared a “humanitarian crisis” in the health service.

The charity has dispatched fleets of emergency Land Rovers to help ferry patients home from hospital and free up beds.

It urged the Government to release emergency funds to relieve the situation, with a third of hospital trusts struggling to keep up with patient numbers, according to a tally of alerts last month.

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, said the Government policy of “systematically underfunding” the NHS was to blame for the crisis, which sees patients “languishing on trolleys and in ambulance queues”.

“The Red Cross being called in to help in our hospitals is just the latest staggering example of how the NHS is now being pushed to breaking point. For the Red Cross to brand the situation a 'humanitarian crisis' should be a badge of shame for government ministers,” he said.

“This winter we are seeing a third of hospitals reporting they need urgent help to cope with the numbers of patients coming through the doors, A&Es have had to turn patients away more than 140 times in December because they couldn't cope and several hospitals have admitted they couldn't offer patients comprehensive care.

“More patients are languishing on trolleys and in ambulance queues. Meanwhile hospitals have been desperately pleading on Twitter for patients to stay away from A&E.

“The stark reality is the NHS is facing a crisis this winter and in need of urgent help from Ministers. It's time Theresa May urgently faced up to her responsibilities and abandoned her policy of systematically underfunding our NHS.”

The warning comes after months of claims that the Government is misleading the public about the amount of money it spends on the NHS.

Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, has repeatedly claimed that £10 billion extra funding has been announced for the health service.

The Health Select Committee however earlier this year warned that the £10 billion figure “does not, in our view, accurately reflect the impact of the spending review on health expenditure”.

Once inflation and cuts to the wider health budget outside NHS England are taken into account the cash injection was a much smaller £6 billion or £4.5 billion depending on the period looked at, they said.

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