In the lead up to this winter, the government implemented its winter preparedness plan for the NHS. This involved spending an additional £100 million on A&Es across England just for this winter and an extra £2 billion on social care. The government have also increased the number of beds available across the system, reduced the number of delayed discharges of elderly people who would otherwise have been in NHS beds rather than in social care and have extended the flu vaccination program.
The current pressures are down to an unusually virulent flu virus which caused the same pressure on the Australian health system during their winter. Attempts to politicise pressures on the NHS are a serious mistake. The last time the NHS had a difficult flu winter was 2009. In 2009, the shadow Health Secretary was Andrew Lansley. He refused to attack the government, because it was an operational issue outside the control of government—in fact, the then Labour Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, thanked him for his “measured tone”, which meant that “together we can give a reassuring message to the public”. It is a shame Labour have not reciprocated and are more interested in whipping up fear and false news.
However looking at the sustainability of the NHS in the future, it is clear demand is increasing faster than the additional resources being put into the NHS. It should be noted that despite what Labour say, since 2010 the NHS budget has increased when most government departments have had reductions. Due to the ever increasing pressure on the NHS, I support a Royal Commission which will look at ways to make the NHS sustainable in the future, ensure it remains free at the point of need and paid for out of taxation. A Royal Commission would work with all parties (if they wanted too) and would seek to give the NHS the long term footing it needs to cope with population increases and increasingly expensive treatments.
On local matters, there have been malicious rumours spread stating that all the Minor Injuries Units (MIU) in Cornwall are closing. I have been reassured by NHS Kernow’s Chief Officer that this is not the case. I believe passionately that we need to retain our MIUs. I have already submitted my support for the vital work that our MIUs do, in the form of a reply to the Sustainability Transformation Plan (STP) consultation, and will vigorously fight to keep them should they ever come under a real threat of closure.