The Brexit battle bus promised more funding for the NHS. Instead, we may be about to fork out for a £40 billion divorce bill, while hospitals are at capacity and the Tories aren't willing to pay up.
Over 10,000 patients had to wait in an ambulance for at least 30 minutes before being admitted to A&E last week because hospitals were at capacity, according to NHS figures. Almost 2,000 faced delays of over an hour.
The statistics, released today as part of new winter monitoring measures, add to the picture of a service near breaking point — even before the onset of winter weather places a further strain on hospitals.
As if things weren’t bad enough, the alarming numbers also coincide with revelations that Labour MPs and charities are demanding an investigation into delays in cancer and mental health patients receiving crucial medicines, as supply issues cost the NHS millions.
And to add insult to injury it’s looking increasingly certain Brexiteers’ promises of £350 million more for the service each week after we leave the EU are never ever going to materialise.
Commenting on the latest report from NHS Providers on winter pressures in the service, Sara Gorton, Unison’s head of health said:
“This alarming report shows the amount of strain the NHS is under even before winter pressures have kicked in.
“A lack of beds, staff shortages and the funding squeeze are all issues the government should have addressed years ago”
Yet the Tories are still refusing to properly fund the service, having offered less than half the £4 billion it was estimated the NHS needed to provide for patients next year.
A small rise in the NHS budget will give the service £126 billion next year— up from the £124.4 billion originally planned. But this still falls significantly short of what it needs to subsist.
“Even with the extra money announced in the Budget, it still falls well short of what the NHS needs.
“It’s incredibly difficult for the NHS to plan for a crisis when it is already running at capacity and staff are stretched all year round.”
Unison said ministers needed to admit that the funding shortfall will lead to more rationing, longer waiting lists and fewer operations.
“It is only through adequate funding and long-term planning that the NHS will ever be in a position to anticipate the winter months with confidence,” she said.
Last month, the head of the health service in England, Simon Stevens, said the NHS should receive the funds it was promised during the EU referendum.
Although the NHS was not on the ballot paper, he said, it was on the Brexit battle bus. Remember the one? It travelled the country lying to the public about the implications of leaving the union, claiming doing so would allow the UK to divert £350 million of extra funding to the health service every week.
Instead, it looks like we’re going to have to fork out £40 billion to leave the bloc, while the NHS is left to fester. So much for democracy.
Charlotte England is a freelance journalist and writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by becoming a Left Foot Forward Supporter today.