The current crisis in NHS Accident and Emergency units makes clear just how close our vital health services can come to failing, even when dedicated staff work long hours to try to cope with demand.
In one week both our local hospitals had to declare a major incident. This meant that their A&E services were struggling to cope with demand, with patients facing long waits in A&E or to be admitted as an in-patient. It also meant that many non-emergency operations were cancelled. Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary says that when the NHS cannot work properly, that is a crisis.
In Parliament, the Health Select Committee called a special inquiry to look at the issues behind this crisis. It is clear that hospitals hit problems in A&E when they have more patients needing to be admitted than beds to take the patients. Most of the crisis-hit hospitals say that a big issue is that too many patients face delays in being discharged from hospital without the social care they need at home or having a place funded in a nursing home.
The budget cuts that the Conservative-led Government made to local councils are at the heart of this problem. In Salford, the council has had £100 million cut from its budget since 2010. This means that 1,000 fewer people are getting social care packages funded this year. It is clear that more elderly and frail patients are needing to be admitted to hospital and their hospital stays are longer than they should be because adequate care cannot be provided in the community.
It is clear that the Conservative-led Government cuts fuelled this crisis and David Cameron has not even made the NHS one of his election priorities. Ed Balls has said that Labour will do “whatever it takes” to make sure that the NHS is safe. We have committed to putting £2.5 billion extra into the NHS and social care to pay for thousands more care workers, more GPs and more nurses. Voters will have a choice between more crises in the NHS or a Labour plan to keep it safe.