Thank you to all those who contacted me about the #ReviveTheNHS campaign and action to support our NHS.
I share concerns about pressures facing our health service. Despite the heroic efforts of staff, our NHS is struggling and performance against many waiting time measures is at a record low with 7.2 million people waiting for NHS treatment and over 400,000 patients waiting longer than a year.
Government Ministers point to the impact of COVID-19. But pressures on our health system are deep-rooted. We entered the pandemic with record waiting lists and 100,000 staff vacancies. Public satisfaction with the NHS has now fallen to its lowest level since 1997.
Everyone deserves high quality care. NHS staff are working incredibly hard but they are burned-out and there simply are not enough of them. NHS England is reporting over 132,000 vacancies. I welcome the Government’s commitment to publish workforce projections, which the Shadow Health Secretary called for back in September. But Ministers have failed to outline the funding and detailed plan required.
Without the much needed investment and support for the NHS workforce, health services across England will be unable to recover lost capacity, address growing backlogs or bring down waiting lists.
I am pleased the Opposition has set out a 10-year plan of change and modernisation to train the next generation of NHS staff, deliver better access to GPs, and ease pressure on A&Es; shifting the focus of healthcare out of the hospital and into the community. The plan will tackle the root cause of the crisis in the NHS by doubling medical school places; creating 10,000 more nursing and midwifery placements every year; doubling the number of district nurses trained every year; and training 5,000 more health visitors. It will be funded by ending the outdated non-dom tax status regime.
More doctors, more nurses, lower waiting times, and higher standards for patients.
We must also focus efforts on retaining current staff, ensuring we value the workforce and give them the conditions they deserve, and ending the absurdity of pension rules that force many doctors to retire early or make it more difficult to return to the NHS after retirement.
This is not just a moral imperative; I believe it is crucial for the future functioning of our NHS.