Labour has said that it will spend more on the NHS than the Tories if they get into power. Whilst announcing his party’s election policy, Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said that under a Labour government funding would rise to £155bn by 2023-24. That would see a £6bn increase on the amount that the government promised the front-line budget would reach when it set out its five-year plan last year.
Labour says the money will be used to cut waiting times and boost mental health services. However, the Tories have criticised Labour’s plan for a shorter working week, saying that the need for increased staff will impact NHS funding. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the working hours policy, announced in September, would “cripple our economy and cost the NHS billions every year”. Labour responded by pointing out that that the 32-hour working-week would be phased in gradually over a ten year period, which would reduce any negative impact on NHS budgets.
The political wrangling over the nation’s health service takes place as monthly statistics plummet to the worst since targets were introduced over a decade ago. This has prompted doctors to warn that the system is “imploding”. With none of the three key hospital targets having been met for over three years, it’s also feared that Brexit backlash will only worsen the present situation.
The figures show:
42 million patients on the waiting list
8% of them waiting under 18 weeks – below the 92% target
6% of accident-and-emergency patients admitted or transferred within four hours – below the 95% target
9% of cancer patients starting treatment within 62 days – below the 85% target
There are fears that the political circus of a general election will overshadow the affirmative action needed to avert a healthcare crisis. Nick Scriven, of the Society of Acute Medicine, said that the figures were very worrying for this early in the winter period. “We have heard so many announcements over the last few weeks of half-baked projects that require either thrice promised money or are totally uncosted for the real world,” he said.
For more topical news about the role that the NHS is playing in the UK general election on 12th December, read our article here.
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