The Autumn Budget was announced on 22 November 2017, and was debated for 4 days.
I share your concerns about the sustained underfunding of our NHS in Ipswich and across the country. I believe it is stretching the finances of hospitals beyond their limits: A&Es are overstretched and overcrowded; an increasing number of people are waiting too long for operations; and key performance targets, such as the 62-day cancer treatment target, are being missed month after month.
Ahead of the Autumn Budget, the chief executive of NHS England has said that unless the NHS is provided with more funding, waiting lists will climb further to 5 million, and the 18 week referral target will potentially be permanently abandoned. I believe the Government should uphold the standards of service under the NHS Constitution, which is a legal guarantee about the standards of care that patients can expect to receive in the NHS in England.
On staffing, the Health Foundation has recently warned that NHS workforce planning is “not fit for purpose”. The Nursing and Midwifery Council has also found an increase in the number of nurses and midwives leaving the professions, and NHS Providers has said that “seven years of pay restraint is now preventing them from recruiting and retaining the staff they need to provide safe, high-quality patient care”.
The Government has taken NHS staff for granted and is asking them to do more for less, resulting in a recruitment and retention crisis which threatens patient care. Nurses have suffered a 14% real-terms pay cut since 2010, and the Government’s decision to scrap student nurse bursaries has led to a fall in numbers on nursing degrees.
At the General Election I stood on a manifesto that would have scrapped the NHS pay cap and ensured patients received the care they need by properly resourcing the NHS with an additional £30 billion in funding over the course of the parliament. The manifesto also pledged to guarantee access to treatments within 18 weeks, to maintain the 4-hour A&E target, and to take one million people off NHS waiting lists by 2022.
The Secretary of State, Phillip Hammond, has suggested that he will scrap the cap, but that there will be no new money to fund that. Instead he has said that the additional wages will need to be paid from “increased productivity”. This completely ignores the fact that the NHS is one of the most productive health services in the world, costing substantially less per person than France + Germany, and far less than in the USA which has worse average outcomes. It’s also an insult to the hardworking nurses and other healthcare professionals who are already giving above and beyond for the meagre incomes they currently receive.
I will urge the Chancellor to use his Autumn Budget to come up with a sustainable long-term plan for the NHS which deals with the staffing crisis and gives the NHS the funding it needs.