Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth today warned that the NHS urgently needs a £500m NHS winter bailout. The much needed cash was required to help increase capacity in struggling hospitals and to pay for extra staff. There are major concerns that the NHS could be at breaking point this festive season, without an immediate injection of cash.
Labour has pledged to boost spending on the NHS through a 5% hike in income tax for the highest earners and changes to corporation tax.
Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “We’ve had no clear explanation from Jeremy Hunt and Theresa May about how the NHS will be prepared this winter.
“We are hearing that we could have a serious flu outbreak this winter.
“So if the government have robust plans, we need them to come forward.”
NHS Providers, which represents trusts across England, this month made an unprecedented warning of hospitals “not able to cope this winter” and “dangerously short of capacity.”
The organisation’s chief executive Chris Hopson predicted: “it could be even worse than last year, when there were far too many patients waiting more than 12 hours on a trolley or in the back of an ambulance to be seen. Unless we get extra money, patients will be put at greater risk as local trusts won’t have the beds and staff they need to meet the extra demand we will face.”
Mr Ashworth told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the £7bn extra promised for the NHS in Labour’s general election manifesto was a “substantial investment”.
But added “we should be giving the NHS 4% a year, and I want us to work towards getting back to that 4% increase. But what I cannot do is say on day one of a Labour government it will definitely be 4% because we have to manage the public finances prudently.”
At the Labour Party conference, yesterday, John McDonnell demanded that PFI contracts would be brought back into government hands to stop the huge fees being charged by the private sector, for public sector construction projects.
In response to McDonnell’s PFI comments, Ashworth said: “NHS experts generally accept that it is only a handful which are causing hospital trusts across the country a significant problem, but let’s look at every single one in detail.”
“Some call it a humanitarian crisis,” the Shadow Health Secretary told the Labour Party Conference in Brighton today, referring to a damning report by the Red Cross earlier this year.” He added: “when you underfund the NHS. When you cuts billions from social care, let’s call it what it really is – A Tory manufactured crisis.”
Watch Jonathan Ashworth’s full speech: