Winter is always the worst time of year for illness with coughs, colds and other viruses spreading like wildfire.
This invariably puts more pressure on our health services, but never before have they been so close to breaking point due to Government policy and funding.
In 2000, Labour brought in the four hour standard to see 98 per cent of patients presenting at A&E within four hours. This was downgraded by the Tories in 2011 to 95 per cent and now Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt says this target may be downgraded again to apply only to serious injuries and illnesses. This is all but an admission that the Government is failing our NHS and it is us who are suffering as a result.
A&E departments in some parts of the country are turning people away and hospitals are running out of beds, leaving sick people stranded on trolleys in corridors. Even King’s Mill Hospital, which had one of the country’s best performing major A&E departments
last year, is struggling to meet the 95 per cent target, with only 93.7 per cent of patients being seen within the four hour mark in November. The Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham is faring even worse, with just 76.3 per cent of patients being seen in four hours in November. The waiting list for elective treatment in England also topped 3.9m in October. People are waiting longer for treatment and are having operations cancelled.
Two constituents have contacted me pleading for help in getting dates for spinal surgery when they have been waiting years, not months, while another waited six months for urgent heart surgery. While hospitals are understaffed and underfunded, what is compounding this problem is the huge cuts the Government has made to other areas of the health service, such as social care provision.
In Nottinghamshire, nearly 12 per cent of the adult social care budget has been cut since 2010/11, at a time when we have an ageing population and more demand on services than ever. This inevitably means that hospitals become full of older people who need to be in a care home or at home with care in place, but this cannot be done in a timely manner, impacting on the whole system.
The family of one elderly lady from Sutton waited months for a care home place for her but she was waiting so long she sadly passed away before a place became available. There is no question that something needs to be done to alleviate the pressure on the NHS.
More funding for A&E departments and for adult social care needs to be made available now.
The Government must act.