Friday 26 July 2019 / 6:00 AM Health / Jonathan Ashworth

Jonathan Ashworth questions Boris Johnson over NHS commitments

Writing to the new Prime Minister, Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth, requested more detail on his NHS funding commitments. 

Ashworth asked for details on exactly where the 20 hospital upgrades will take place and how much funding will be allocated to each hospital. “The truth is that years of cuts are pushing hospitals to the brink. Research conducted by my office last month found that incidents had occurred in 76 hospital trusts in England because of estates and infrastructure failures in 2018/19.”

Information on which policies the Government will put in place to boost GP numbers and improve staff morale has been sought for. Currently, one in four patients wait a week or more to see their GP, and this year, England has seen the first sustained drop in GP numbers for fifty years.

Ashworth has also called for details on what ‘waiting times’ would be addressed and what plans are in place to ensure funds get to frontline services. “Does this relate to the four hour A&E waiting time target, which has not been met for almost four years, or to the 62 day cancer waiting time target, which has not been met since December 2015?”

Full text below:

Dear Mr Johnson,

I have noted with interest your early commitments to the NHS for upgrading 20 hospitals, and ensuring that the money for the NHS really does get to the frontline.

The truth is that years of cuts are pushing hospitals to the brink. Research conducted by my office last month found that incidents had occurred in 76 hospital trusts in England because of estates and infrastructure failures in 2018/19. Problems included sewage and water leaking on to hospital wards, broken lifts, and ceilings collapsing. Some incidents have affected patient care, often leading to the cancellation of appointments and leaving people waiting longer for vital treatment.

The NHS now faces a staggering £6 billion repair bill, £3 billion of which is considered ‘high or significant risk’. Patients deserve to be treated in the very best quality health facilities with the most up to date equipment and it is disappointing that the Conservative government has failed to invest in infrastructure capital budgets. I would be grateful for more detail on your hospital upgrade plans, especially on exactly where these upgrades will take place and how much funding will be allocated to each hospital.

Furthermore, both in your statement today and in your speech on the steps of Number 10 yesterday, you made reference to GP waiting times. Currently, one in four patients wait a week or more to see their GP, and this year, we saw the first sustained drop in GP numbers for fifty years. Which policies will the Government put in place to boost GP numbers and improve the morale of our overworked general practice workforce to ensure that patients are not waiting weeks on end for an appointment with their family doctor?

You also said in your statement today that you have asked officials to provide policy proposals to “drastically” reduce waiting times. I would like to know which waiting times you are referring to –  does this relate to the four hour A&E waiting time target, which has not been met for almost four years, or to the 62 day cancer waiting time target, which has not been met since December 2015? Can you commit to keeping the four hour A&E target, and furthermore, to meeting it so patients are not left waiting for hours in overcrowded hospitals wards?

NHS England itself has made clear that core treatment targets can’t be met because of the funding settlement imposed by the Government. The Conservative’s NHS funding settlement fell well short of what is needed. The Autumn Budget announcement excluded public health budgets, training and capital – meaning it’s an increase of just 3 per cent for health services when we have a childhood obesity crisis, cuts to sexual health and addiction services, workforce shortages and a backlog of billions of pounds for repairs. I would be keen to hear exactly how you plan on ensuring funding gets to frontline services considering the significant, sustained, challenges facing our health service.

I know the sector would appreciate clarity urgently on all of the above and I look forward to hearing from you.