I’m in awe of our NHS and the staff who work for it. This week I unexpectedly needed hospital care and I’m so grateful for the support and help I received. It was clear to me though just how much pressure staff are under. I’ve repeatedly written to the Department of Health wanting to know when they are going to help our doctors and nurses improve targets and avoid another winter bed crisis that is still having widespread ramifications across our constituency.
Latest figures show that in Blackpool Victoria Hospital’s A+E, 83.3% of patients are seen within four hours – failing the target of 95% by a considerable margin. In the rest of England the average is 90.4%. The last time the hospital hit its target was September 2015. This time last year Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust was doing better by 1.7%.
For planned operations and care the situation is even worse. 81.7% of patients wait less than 18 weeks (more than four months) for their operation – failing by more than 10% to hit the target of 92%. In England the average is 87.5%. The trust hasn’t met its target for more than five years. Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust is ranked 109 out of 128 trusts.
I’m really pleased the Trust is however excelling in cancer targets where it’s expected that 85% of patients should begin treatment within 62 days of urgent GP referral – in Blackpool its 92.8% – almost 10% higher than the average across England. It’s worth noting however that we have a higher incidence of cancer in the Blackpool area, a lower rate of survival, higher numbers of people suffering from lung and oesophagus cancer, and rates of premature mortality (deaths of people aged 74 or under) that are significantly above the national average. The NHS has to respond to the greater need for cancer services here with a focus on earlier rates of detection, quicker rates of referral to see a consultant and health education.
In the north of the constituency latest figures show that in University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust (UHMBT) A+E, 90.6% of patients are seen within four hours – failing the target of 95%. The last time the hospital hit its target was August 2015.
For planned operations and care 85.1% of patients wait less than 18 weeks (more than four months) for their operation – the target is 92%. The trust hasn’t met its target for more than five years. UHMBT is ranked 90 out of 128 trusts.
UHMBT recorded a £67.6m deficit last year. Only four other health trusts in England had higher deficits.
As you may have heard, the Government says the NHS in England will get an extra £20bn a year by 2023 as a 70th “birthday present.” It means the £114bn budget will rise by an average of 3.4% annually – but that is still less than the 3.7% average rise the NHS has had since 1948. The Tories’ pledge of an increase in spending does not include money for social care, capital spending or public health.
The Tories have also repeatedly refused to come clean about the source of funding for the black hole in their NHS announcement, only saying that “we as a country will contribute a bit more.” The Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt has refused to deny that once again it will be the poorest footing the bill.
The reality is that the government has failed to fund the NHS properly and is relying on a “hypothetical” windfall. The Government needs to come clean about their plans. It’s disgraceful that after eight years of austerity, the Conservatives can’t guarantee that it won’t be the poorest who end up footing the bill for new NHS money. The Conservatives forced those at the bottom to pay for the bankers’ crisis with crushing austerity. Now they won’t rule out making them pay to fix the crisis in the NHS that Government cuts have caused. People need to know what the Tories’ plans are now; they can’t be expected to wait for months. The clash of priorities couldn’t be clearer: the Conservatives look set to clobber low earners, while Labour would give the NHS extra funding through tax rises on the top 5 per cent and big business. According to the Institute of Fiscal Studies, at 1.4% a year spending growth under the Tories has been slower than at any time in the NHS’s history.
Is it any wonder our local targets aren’t being met?