The five Brexiteers should be forced to keep their £350m promise to the NHS – it deserves every penny

Of course the NHS can become more efficient, but the idea that it can overcome its current problems through savings alone – after seven years of cutbacks – is absurd

Chuka Umunna
Tuesday 07 February 2017 10:54
No small beer: the Leave campaign, fronted by Boris Johnson along with other Tories who are now Cabinet ministers, argued that leaving the EU would mean a boost of £350m a week for the NHS
No small beer: the Leave campaign, fronted by Boris Johnson along with other Tories who are now Cabinet ministers, argued that leaving the EU would mean a boost of £350m a week for the NHS

The current Government is planning damaging and unnecessary cuts to accident and emergency departments at a time when the health service is under its greatest strain for many years. During the referendum on our membership of the European Union, the Leave campaigners promised an extra £350m a week in funding for the NHS. Instead of slashing away at vital services, the Government should keep the promises made by people who are now leading members of the Cabinet, like Boris Johnson, and give our NHS the resources it needs to overcome the immense pressures it is under.

To those Leave ministers and MPs,the people who voted Leave and Remain say put your money where your mouth is and support the amendment signed by more than 50 MPs – which I have tabled to the Article 50 legislation requiring the Government to set out exactly how it will make good on the key Vote Leave promise.

The news this week is deeply worrying for anyone who loves and depends upon our NHS. According to analysis by the Health Service Journal, as many as 33 accident and emergency units in hospitals could be facing closure or downgrading – that’s one in every six in the country. From Sandwell to Shrewsbury and Telford to Teesside, the services on which communities depend could be taken away.

Douglas Carswell challenged over £350m NHS Brexit pledge on live TV

The terrible irony is that this is the worst possible time for the Government to be considering cuts, as our NHS is under unprecedented pressure. NHS winter crises have returned with a vengeance. The number of life-saving operations cancelled has reached a new high. Nine in 10 hospitals have been overcrowded this year. Record numbers of hospitals are being forced to divert patients elsewhere. This is both a human tragedy and an indictment of seven years of Conservative government.

As the House of Commons Health Select Committee has said, the Government has refused to deliver the investment in our NHS it promised. It spent years, and billions of pounds, on a top-down reorganisation for which there was no popular mandate and no support among doctors and nurses. And they have failed to confront the real challenges facing the NHS: the crisis in social care, a shortage of GPs, and our rapidly ageing population.

Certainly the NHS can become more efficient. But the idea that it can overcome its current problems through savings alone, after seven years of cutbacks, is absurd. Everyone apart from the Health Secretary and the Prime Minister knows that the only answer is for our NHS to be given a meaningful, long-term increase in funding.

That’s why they need to come good on the promise made by the five Cabinet ministers – Boris Johnson, Liam Fox, Priti Patel, Andrea Leadsom, and Chris Grayling – who during the referendum campaign stated that Brexit would leave £350m a week available to spend on our NHS. Just think what that money could achieve – a lifeline for A&E services threatened with closure, more GP surgeries, real investment in adult social care, and more.

Along with dozens of MPs from Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens, I am pushing an amendment to the Article 50 bill going through Parliament to force the Government to set out its plans on how Brexit will impact on health spending and how the Vote Leave pledge will be met.

There is no reason why Tory Leavers should not support this amendment. Even Iain Duncan Smith said yesterday that he would take a look at it.

They made the promise, they ought to be transparent about whether or not it is deliverable. If you want those MPs to keep their promise, and help get our NHS the spending it needs, please sign our petition at

Chuka Umunna is Labour MP for Streatham. A petition to support his amendment to the Article 50 bill can be found here

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in