26/09/2017 08:49 BST

Labour Calls For £500m Bailout For NHS Winter Crisis As Questions Swirl About PFI Announcement

Jonathan Ashworth also appeared to row back on Labour pledges to pull out of all PFI deals.

Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth

Theresa May should pump half a billion pound into the NHS to avoid a looming winter crisis for the NHS, Labour has said. 

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworrth said the bailout fund was needed to protect patients who rely on overstretched services. 

During a BBC interview, Ashworth also appeared to row back on pledges Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell made during his speech to “take back” all health services from any PFI (private finance initiative) deals. 

He said a “only a handful” of hospitals had a problem and some deals would need to be renegotiated, adding reviewing all the contracts was the right thing to do. 

It comes amid questions whether the policy is affordable, with some claiming it would cost the public purse £80 billion. 

The extra £500 million was desperately needed after seven years of under-funding, he said. 

If the country saw the same collapse in services as 2016 this winter, 10,000 people will be waiting more than four hours for A&E every day and hundreds of operations will be cancelled, the party said. 

Ashworth said: “Last winter, Theresa May stuck her head in the sand and refused to give the NHS the money it needed to keep services running properly.

“This decision pushed NHS staff beyond their limits and caused misery for patients in every part of the country. It can’t be allowed to happen again.

“Labour is calling for a comprehensive package of emergency support, including a new £500m winter bailout fund, to urgently be put in place so that patients don’t suffer the same pain as last year all over again.

“It is not acceptable for the Government to stumble into another NHS winter crisis – they’ve been well warned and need to take action now.” 

The £500 million should be focused on boosting hospitals’ capacity to deal with the winter spike, allowing hospitals to hire extra non-agency staff, and improving the link between the NHS and social care to reduce delayed transfers of care.

Previous winter bailouts have ranged between £300 million and £700 million.