Many of you will know that as well as being the Member of Parliament for Denton and Reddish, I’m also Labour’s Shadow Public Health Minister.
That means that as well as managing local issues, I’m in charge of holding the Government to account on matters relating to Public Health. It’s a very interesting and varied role, but one that means I see first-hand, on a daily basis, the extreme challenges facing health and social care in the United Kingdom.
We’ve had a tumultuous month here in the UK, so you might not have seen much about health on the news. But the situation is dire, and I am baffled by the fact that the Government aren’t doing more to protect our NHS.
Earlier this month, it was revealed that 6.8 million people are currently waiting for hospital treatment in England alone. Last month in Tameside, over 3,700 people waited more than 4 hours to be seen at A&E. Horrifyingly, 140 people waited more then 12 hours to be seen.
Now this is not a reflection on the brilliant NHS staff across Tameside. In fact, Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care NHS Foundation is an excellent team, leading the way in improving health outcomes by collaborating with local health and care partners.
Instead, these figures speak to 12 years of Tory mismanagement and neglect. The Government has no national workforce plan, no national strategy to deal with waiting lists, and no ideas for coping with winter pressures. Staff are doing the very best that they can but are essentially trying to fly a plane without a pilot.
I sometimes feel like we’ve been desensitised to just how bad things are in the NHS, and in truth that suits the Government. It’s easier for Liz Truss to pretend that the NHS is undergoing a crisis that would have happened under any Government, than admit that her party has dropped the ball. But the reality is under the last Labour Government, average waiting times were slashed from 18 months to 18 weeks, and Labour left Government with the highest NHS patient satisfaction on record.
The NHS works when the Government works in its interest.
The longer we give the Tories, the longer people will wait. We need a fresh start, a proper workforce strategy, and a government that is committed to building an NHS fit for the future.