There’s a very troubling – but unsurprising – report from the National Audit Office today, which shows the scale of the financial problems the NHS is facing. The terrifying reality of government failure and lack of investment means NHS trusts are facing a deficit of £2.45 billion in the past year alone.
That’s billion with a B.
For NHS employees that won’t be a big surprise. NHS staff are continually being asked to do more with less, make efficiency savings and work around government cuts. Ensuring that the NHS is properly funded is vital, not just for those staff, but for all of us who are reliant upon the health service for one off, ongoing or even life-saving care.
And yet the government looks unlikely to provide necessary additional funds in tomorrow’s Autumn Statement. Instead ministers claim they’ve already promised the NHS that money it needs, which is clearly not the case. Promises were made before the last election on NHS funding with little clarity of where those funds would come from. That lack of clarity remains today, leading to the kind of damaging headlines reminiscent of the bad old days of NHS underfunding.
Long waits for both routine and essential NHS care are becoming increasingly common – whether someone is trying to see a GP or a specialist – and yet the Tory mantra remains the same.
Like ostriches ministers’ heads are lodged firmly in the sand. Unlike ostriches, they’re responsible for our NHS. But at present it seems those same ministers are in a permanent state of denial.
The government should be concentrating on properly funding social care to reduce delayed discharge from hospitals (often referred to as ‘bed-blocking’). This costs the NHS over £800m each year, a cost that could be avoided if social care for older and vulnerable adults was funded properly.
The government can try as hard as it likes to avoid reality – but our NHS needs more money and ministers aren’t doing enough to provide it.
That’s why it’s so good to see the Labour Party – the party which built the NHS and which (whilst imperfect) has always had to rescue the NHS from Tory failings – is making a properly funded, publicly-owned health service one of its key campaigning priorities.
This Saturday (26 November), Labour members and supporters across the country will be getting the message out about the government’s failure to fund our health service, standing up for the services UNISON members provide and calling on ministers to chart a different course – one which benefits us all.
The NHS is our country’s greatest achievement. We cannot allow this government to damage it any further – we must care for it as it has cared for so many of us.
More information on Labour’s NHS campaign day can be found at labour.org.uk/nhs