Labour's health chief vows to 'grapple' NHS staff shortages during visit to Sutton

The Labour Party's chief health spokesman has vowed to "put more money" into King's Mill Hospital and "grapple" staff shortages across the NHS.

Jonathan Ashworth, who served as the party's shadow health secretary until the election was called, was speaking at the Sutton hospital as part of a visit with the party's parliamentary candidate for Ashfield, Natalie Fleet.

Jonathan Ashworth speaking to staff at King's Mill Hospital.

Jonathan Ashworth speaking to staff at King's Mill Hospital.

There he spoke with your Chad about Labour's plans to address "very deep cuts" to the NHS since 2010, which he says has headed our hospital into a "very serious" direction.

He also spoke about a "crippling" private finance initiative (PFI) contract signed by Sherwood Forest Hospitals to build the new hospital in Sutton, which he says will be brought "back in-house" to support trust bosses.

His visit comes slightly more than a week after King's Mill Hospital went into OPEL 4, formerly known as 'black alert', due to staff and bed shortages in its emergency department.

He says Labour will address the cuts by putting more money into staffing, to "make the winter period less intense" than it has been in previous years.

READ MORE: Boris Johnson pledges to return to Mansfield and Ashfield to address 'unanswered questions'
He said: "We are going to look at these PFI contracts and essentially renegotiate them to bring them back in-house. This is a proposal John McDonnell has made.

"But the reason why this trust is under pressure, the reason why it had to ask staff to come in over the weekend and the reason why it is already under winter pressure, isn't because of PFI contracts.

"The reason the NHS is in crisis now is because of a decade of under-funding and wider cutbacks.

"We've had a decade of failure to grapple with the huge staff shortages, where we are short of 40,000 nurses and 10,000 doctors nationwide.

"And we've had a decade of very deep cuts to our social care budget. That's why King's Mill has had to ask staff to come in on their weekends.

"We are heading now for a very serious winter in the NHS. We've already got elderly patients languishing in corridors in Nottinghamshire.

"And my message to the people of Mansfield and Ashfield, to Chad readers, is that Labour is going to put more money into the NHS here to recruit more doctors and nurses."

READ MORE: Poorly managed visit from Boris Johnson in Sutton leaves voters with unanswered questions​
When questioned about how the Labour party would fund its major investments into the NHS, Mr Ashworth pressed that it would be the "wealthiest in society" who foot the bill - not the "decent, hardworking people" of Mansfield and Ashfield.

He added: "We've got to remember, the Tories have cut billions in taxation for the corporations, but at the same time they have cut millions from our health service. I don't think that's a fair deal.

"This isn't just the NHS. We're going to invest in quality jobs, schools and the police service. When you invest in these public services, you contribute to economic growth.

"My wife's from Rainworth, I've got family who live in Kirkby, so I know the area and I've seen the impact that the cuts have had in this area over the last ten years.

"And when you cut the funding that's coming into the area, it impacts the local economy, it impacts the jobs and prosperity of the area, so we are going to address this and put more money back into Mansfield and Ashfield."

Mr Ashworth's visit to King's Mill Hospital comes just four days after the Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited the hospital, where he pledged half-priced visas for NHS staff coming from abroad post-Brexit.

READ MORE: Boris Johnson pledges nursing support for King's Mill Hospital on visit to Sutton