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Gambling With Our Future: Why Theresa May's NHS Crisis Risks Hurting Patients For Generations To Come

19/01/2017 08:46 | Updated 19 January 2017
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The Office of Budget Responsibility has published a report this week which says that health, social care and pensions will require an extra investment of £30billion every decade over the next fifty years.

The rising costs of an ageing population would see the proportion of GDP going into health rising from 6.9% in 2020-21 to 12.6% by 2066-67. That 12.6% would equate to about £228billion in today's prices, the OBR confirmed.

The OBR's report lays bare the scale of the problems which the Government are storing up by failing to give the health service the funds it needs here and now.

Repeatedly this Government has opted for short-term decisions which will cost the health service much, much more in years to come.

The Government's failure to give NHS trusts the resources they need has pushed the finances of the provider sector close to the cliff edge.

To plug the growing staff shortages hospitals have had to turn to expensive agency solutions or spend extra money on overseas recruitment drives.

David Cameron promised to protect the NHS, but instead slashed £200m a year from local authority public health budgets which are there to keep people well and out of hospital.

And Theresa May just doesn't seem to understand the challenge - failing to give social care the boost it needed in her first mini-Budget.

Instead Government's proposed solution to all this is the Sustainability and Transformation Plans or "STPs" - a series of local decisions dictated from the top.

Getting the local health community - providers, staff, local authorities and patients - round the table to determine their future service needs makes a lot of sense. But they have to be given the resource they need to make that future work.

The scale of change demanded in the STP process simply won't be achieved if the Government refuses to match local ambitions with sufficient funds.

This winter we have seen A&E outcomes at their worst in ten years and patients left on trolleys in corridors for hours. Hospitals across the country have said they are at breaking point. Now, previously unthinkable, cancer operations being cancelled.

Theresa May's unbelievable response was to play this down as a "small number of incidents". Bogged down by Brexit she is failing to give the health service the attention it needs and doesn't know what she is doing in response to rising pressures on hospitals.

None of this is inevitable. These problems are a result of the political choices which this Government have made.

The Prime Minister has found the money for multi billion tax cuts for corporations and for a new wave of grammar schools but has chosen to refuse extra funding for health or social care. The OBR has shown just how unsustainable this path will be.

Right now, Theresa May needs to invest in the NHS by bringing forward a new funding settlement for health and social care in the March Budget so that patients can continue to access the level and quality of care that they need, not only now, but for the years and decades to come.

Jon Ashworth is the Shadow Health Secretary and Labour MP for Leicester South

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