Like many people across Tameside, I’ve been watching the crisis in the NHS unfold with a mixture of horror and disbelief. Waiting times have reached historic highs, patients are unable to be discharged because of collapsing social care provision and the images of backed-up ambulances outside A&E are plastered across news channels on a daily basis.
Here in Tameside, NHS staff are working around the clock for patients, but the truth is they have been failed by 13 years of Government neglect and mismanagement. When the last Labour Government left office, we had the highest patient satisfaction, historically low waiting times, and handed over a successful and efficient NHS. It is beyond depressing, then, to see how quickly that golden legacy has been obliterated by the Conservatives.
It isn’t just A&E suffering, but Primary Care too. In December, new data was released which revealed that over 1,500 people across Denton and Reddish faced a wait of 28 days or more to see a GP in October. Figures like these would have felt unimaginable 13 years ago, but sadly have become all too common.
So how do we address this crisis? Well, it requires a combination of short-term and long-term thinking. Labour would scrap the non-dom tax status and using the cash to implement the biggest expansion of the NHS workforce in modern history. This radical investment would come alongside reform to make sure that patients received the very best care possible.
But we also need to see short-term action taken immediately to plug the gaps and stop the NHS from totally sinking. This means doing things like utilising spare capacity in the private sector, fixing doctors pension rules to improve staff retention, getting funds into adult social care, and boosting flu and covid vaccination efforts. Steps like these could be taken today, but the Government is failing to take the decisive action which is so desperately needed.
It might be a strange thing to say, but I genuinely hope the Government steals Labour’s NHS strategy. We can’t afford to wait for the next General Election. The problems are too acute, too widespread, and too life-threatening. I want the Government to nab our fully-costed long term workforce strategy and start implementing the necessary short-term fixes immediately.
Things should never have got to this stage, but now that they have, we need to see some leadership. NHS Patients deserve better, NHS staff deserve better, and the people of Tameside deserve better.