I recently visited the Royal Bolton Hospital to meet with the Chair and Chief Executive. I’ve often expressed my concerns about the NHS in my blog and this was a good opportunity to discuss the situation facing our local services.
We’ve seen cuts to social care, ambulances, pharmacies and community facilities like our NHS walk-in centre. Practically every service is struggling with staff shortages and patients are struggling to get a GP appointment. Our NHS is clearly under pressure at every level and this often cascades down to A&E, where we see huge waiting times.
I want to make it clear that I do not place the blame for these failings with the NHS itself. Everyone is working to the best of their ability to keep services running at the highest possible standard.
It is also unfair to blame patients. More and more we are seeing services trying to reduce demand by diverting patients elsewhere. This is creating an atmosphere where people feel they are being blamed for seeking the treatment they need. We have to look at why demand is not being met, not make people feel guilty for asking for help.
Responsibility for the issues we are seeing has to lie with the Government. Funding for the NHS has been inadequate, failing to meet the changing needs of our society. It is wrong of the Prime Minister to simply say waiting times are up because demand is high, but offer no resources to meet that demand now or in the future.
Cuts to Local Councils have added even more pressure. Social care and NHS services should work hand in hand, but £4.6bn has been cut from social care since 2010. Care services are working at full capacity and as a result we see “bed blocking”. I have asked the Chair and Chief Executive to look at innovative ways to address this issue because it is unfair to both the patients needing care and the patients waiting for medical treatment.
The National Health Service will always be one of my priorities. I will continue my work locally to protect local NHS services from the cuts agenda. In Parliament, Labour is calling for the Chancellor to develop a new funding settlement for our NHS at the Budget in March.