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A Response to Tory MP Chris Skidmore On The NHS

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After reading your article on the Huffington Post yesterday I feel compelled to set the record straight.

You seem to believe that now the Health and Social Care Bill has been forced through Parliament, your government's problems with the NHS are at an end. In fact, they are just beginning.

No-one, myself included, has ever wanted or tried to claim the NHS would collapse overnight with the passing of the Health Bill. Like the thousands of doctors, nurses, midwives and other health professionals who vehemently opposed the Bill, I know it will be during the months and years ahead that the NHS will feel the full effect.

Don't just take my word for it. Look at the Department of Health's very own leaked transition risk register from earlier this week. Let's take a few examples: "More failures, GP consortia go bust or have to cut services", "Performance dips and key staff lost", "Emergencies less well managed".

These worrying risks are all 'red rated' - likely to happen and with major consequences. Now we know why David Cameron has refused to publish this document; civil servants told him from the outset that his reorganisation was likely to cause major damage to the NHS. He will never be forgiven for knowingly taking these risks with the country's best-loved institution.

Sadly, patients are already beginning to pay the price of your government's mismanagement of the NHS. For 12 out of the last 13 weeks the NHS has missed its new lowered A&E target, the number of patients who waited over 18 weeks for treatment is up by 25% since the election and the number of cancelled operations has increased by 42% in the last year.

Even the average waiting time, the measure that the prime minister is fond of using at PMQs, has increased from 7.7 weeks in December 2011 to 8.7 weeks in the latest figures. Every day more evidence comes to light showing that this government has lost its grip on the NHS and thrown the health service into turmoil with confused policies.

As for your claim that "there are more frontline professional staff working in the health service than ever before... over 4,000 more doctors" - these are doctors trained under a Labour government. And why no mention of nurses? Could it be because the number of nurses in the NHS has actually fallen by 4,096 since this government came to power?

The Health Bill was one of the most hated and ridiculed Bill in living memory and will do great damage to the NHS. Longer waiting times, restrictions to services and a postcode lottery where we will see real differential standards applied. If you don't believe the next Labour government will undo that damage and reform the NHS for the better then you are even more out of touch than I first thought.

But let me tell you what we won't do. We won't make your mistake of rushing headlong into another top-down re-organisation without the support of NHS staff, professionals and patients. And unlike your party, our plans will actually be in our manifesto.

You mention the extra investment going into the NHS, but in truth David Cameron inflicted a real-terms cut on the NHS in his first year - breaking one of his key election promises. Also, why is there no mention of George Osborne's £500million raid on the NHS budget last week?

You fail to see that the people who are truly interested in reforming the NHS did not support this bill. It prevents the NHS from the real change it needs and that's why Labour's campaign to restore the NHS is only just beginning.

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