Tory MP and doctor attacks huge NHS cuts while Theresa May hands cash to Northern Ireland

'You can't justify £500m to the Democratic Unionist party while taking another £500m out of the English NHS'

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Saturday 15 July 2017 15:10 BST
Dr Sarah Wollaston warned the NHS was being forced into 'draconian measures'
Dr Sarah Wollaston warned the NHS was being forced into 'draconian measures' (PA)

A Conservative MP and doctor has attacked huge NHS cuts in England, while similar sums are handed out in Northern Ireland to prop up Theresa May in power.

Sarah Wollaston warned the health service in England was being forced into “draconian measures” that would damage both public health and patient safety.

Embarrassingly for No 10, Dr Wollaston linked the cuts directly to the £1bn deal signed with the Democratic Unionist Party to deliver the Conservatives a majority in the Commons.

John Major: The NHS is about as safe with Tory Brexiteers as a hamster is with a phython

The criticism – from the chairwoman of the Commons health select committee – is the strongest yet by a senior Conservative MP since the controversial agreement was struck.

It comes after it was revealed that patients at risk of a heart attack could be denied vital tests and potentially lifesaving operations as part of £55m of budget cuts in Surrey and Sussex.

Under a little-known “capped expenditure process” (CEP), 14 areas of England have been ordered to make total savings of £500m, as the NHS struggles with underfunding.

“I don't think these extra cuts are reasonable. You can't justify £500m to the Democratic Unionist party while taking another £500m out of the English NHS,” Dr Wollaston told The Guardian.

The head of the health committee called for the CEP, ordered by NHS England and the overview body, NHS Improvement, to be scrapped.

“The kind of issues that are being discussed would involve draconian measures that would have an impact on public health and services. I do have concerns about ultimately patient safety,” she added.

NHS bosses in Surrey and Sussex are considering restricting the number of patients given a potentially life-saving angiogram or an angioplasty - inserting stents to help blocked arteries.

It is one of a range of options being considered to save the £55m, on top of £106m of “efficiency savings” already agreed.

Some patients at risk of a heart attack would in future be monitored by “watchful waiting” instead, under the plan.

Rationing of knee operations, cataract removals and tonsil removals is also being considered, as well as restricting IVF treatment and the provision of hearing aids.

Beds, or even whole wards, in community hospitals could be shut as the local NHS is told to “think the unthinkable”, as one senior figure described it.

Nigel Edwards, chief executive of the Nuffield Trust health think-tank, said: “Many of these cutbacks in procedures will only save money in the short term.

“If they go ahead, this will mean putting off treating patients whose hip and eye conditions will worsen and must be treated eventually. Getting savings out will also require cutting staff.”

The Guardian said Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, had declined to comment on the £55m cuts, while backing the CEP as a “fair” way to curb spending in the NHS.

The Department of Health said: “NHS England and NHS Improvement are ensuring that local areas spend their increasing share equally based on best clinical practice.”

At the election, the Conservatives said NHS spending would rise by £8bn by 2022 – but has yet to say how that increase will be funded.

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