On Saturday, I joined Jeremy Corbyn MP, Andrew Smith MP and hundreds of Labour activists to campaign in Oxford to #CareForTheNHS.
Under the Tories, our NHS is in a critical condition. It is underfunded and understaffed, with the worst NHS deficits on record at £2.45 billion. Around 3.9 million people are now on the English waiting list to start treatment. 1.8 million people waited four or more hours in A&E last year- marking an astonishing increase since 2010. One in four patients have to wait a week or more to see a GP or nurse, or fail to get an appointment at all.
On Saturday, Jeremy and Andrew also visited Restore, a local mental health charity in Oxford, and rightly applauded the vital work they do there. Restore
offer a range of services, from recovery groups to offering those with mental illnesses training and employment coaching to help them back into work.
Despite earlier Conservative pledges to achieve parity between the NHS’ physical and mental health provisions, analysis by the King’s Fund think tank suggest that 40% of the 58 NHS trusts in England saw budget cuts in 2015-2016.
Following the referendum result, the situation looks set to deteriorate. The Autumn Statement was devoid of any credible mention of the NHS- a far cry from earlier promises by Brexiteers that the supposed £350 million a week Britons ‘give’ to the EU could be invested in the NHS.
Brexit also has the potential to cause further NHS staffing issues. Nationwide, the NHS is reliant on workers from the European Union, from doctors and nurses to catering staff and cleaners. This is particularly true within the South East of England. In the Thames Valley, over 10% of NHS hospital and community health staff are from EU countries, and in Kent, Surrey and Sussex, the figure is similar, with 9% of qualified nursing, midwifery and health visitors hailing from the European Union.
Unless the Tories strike the right Brexit deal, there will be growing, and ever more serious gaps in the NHS. It is more important than ever to hold Theresa May and the Tories to account to protect our NHS, and to make sure that we get the best Brexit deal for Britain.