Our National Health Service is one of Labour’s finest achievements – a universal health service, free at the point of delivery, for every person, no matter their income or background.
Over the years I have had time to reflect again and again on just how important the NHS is to me, to my family and to so many residents across Southwark and beyond, and how much we owe to the hundreds of thousands of doctors, nurses and support staff who run our hospitals and clinics.
Earlier this year my mum had to be admitted to St George’s Hospital after becoming seriously ill with an infection. It was a worrying time for all of our family, but we were all so grateful for the excellent care she received which enabled her full recovery.
Only a few years ago St George’s was rated as a ‘Good’ hospital, but in the last few weeks it has been rated as ‘Inadequate’ for safety, with a rating of ‘Requires Improvement’ overall. And this isn’t an isolated issue. Last year King’s College Hospital was rated as ‘Requires Improvement’ and the London Ambulance Service was rated as ‘Inadequate’.
Reading through each of the Care Quality Commission reports it is clear that we can be proud of the immensely hard work of our local doctors, nurses and support staff, but they have been desperately let down by both the last Tory-Lib Dem coalition government and the current Tory government.
Our hospitals are seeing more patients as a result of government cuts to funding for social care, which also make it harder to discharge elderly people back home once they have recovered. A situation of growing demand, simply cannot be sustained if resources are still being cut.
The Tory-Lib Dem coalition refused to train the number of nurses that we need and our hospitals now have a desperate shortage, forcing them to pay expensive agency staff and overtime rates. And the government is planning to cut bursaries for trainee nurses, making it harder to become a nurse at a time when we need extra student nurses more than ever. The government’s refusal to give reassurance on the status of European doctors and nurses working hard in our NHS also risks making the situation even worse.
We must all continue to stand up for the hard working frontline staff in our NHS and to insist that the government provides the funding the NHS desperately needs.