As the father of a disabled son, I spend quite a lot of time at hospital. It has often been said you are more likely to be treated by a migrant than behind one in the queue for the NHS. That has certainly been the case for us. Most of us, from our own personal experiences, know this to be true. Yet this Government has led people to believe migrants are responsible for all the problems the country faces - and the NHS is no exception.
Hospitals are constantly in the headlines as they continue to struggle through a winter crisis - which despite being predicted, the NHS has been left entirely unfit to cope with. Last month the patient waiting times in A&Es equalled the worst ever on record. More ambulances were being diverted than ever, and the occupancy of beds in acute wards hit 95%.
Racist scaremongers say it is migrants bringing the NHS to its knees. But in reality, it’s migrants who are keeping it on its feet. Last year there were roughly 50,000 people from other EU countries working in the NHS. The truth is there is only one reason for the crisis in our health service. It is not migrants. Nor, despite the Conservatives claims, is it old people, inefficiency, bed blockers or doctors and nurses. It is this Tory Government. The NHS is facing a funding black hole of an estimated £30 billion by 2020.
We all know we won’t get £350million a week for the NHS, and that is why we need a vote on the final Brexit deal
It is against this backdrop that one of the biggest lies of the EU referendum sits – Boris Johnson’s Brexit bus promise of £350million for the NHS. To see him raise this figure last week was beggars belief. Of course, there is nothing about EU membership which has stopped our Government from investing in the NHS. It comes down to political choices, and this Government has chosen not to support our doctors and nurses.
Not only will the NHS not get this money post-Brexit – but leaving the EU will bring with it a fresh assault our public health service. In recent months headlines have warned of EU nurses leaving the NHS in their tens of thousands – with more EU citizens leaving the NHS than joining.
We all know we won’t get £350million a week for the NHS, and that is why we need a vote on the final Brexit deal. The Tories say there’s no magic money tree, but there are many places they could get the investment the NHS so desperately needs. Scrapping Trident alone would free up £110billion which could go towards our health service. Changes to tax relief on private pensions could free up £7.5billion a year for social care.
Britain is shaped by the political choices made in in Westminster. For the sake of our national health - and our National Health Service - we must have a vote on the final deal.
Jonathan Bartley is co-leader of the Green Party