Wirral MP calls on government to significantly increase health spending as she warns of “existential threat” to the NHS
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31 Oct 2023
Margaret Greenwood MP has called for significant funding increases to the NHS as she criticised the Conservatives for deliberately underfunding the service. She made her remarks during her opening speech in a parliamentary debate that she led on the future of the NHS.
Many other public figures have weighed in with their concerns about the future of the NHS over recent months. Earlier this year, the highly respected professor of epidemiology and public health Sir Michael Marmot said that government ministers “are not behaving as if they want to preserve our NHS”, while Professor Philip Banfield, the British Medical Association’s chair of council, spoke of what he perceived of the government’s “managed decline” of the NHS.
The Wirral West MP highlighted the work of The 99% Organisation whose report The Rational Policy Maker’s Guide to the NHS presents statistics on the average annual change in per capita health spending by UK governments since 1979, adjusted for population and demographic factors. It shows that, under Labour between 1997 and 2010, there was an average annual increase in per capita health spending of 5.67%. Conservative-led governments since 1979 have never come close to reaching this level, and they have actually, at times, overseen average annual reductions in per capita health spending.
The report also uses respected international data from the Commonwealth Fund to show that, among the countries studied, the UK’s has often been the best-ranked healthcare system for effectiveness, equity and efficiency. However, the report warns that spending has not kept pace with the combination of inflation, population growth and population ageing and that the performance of the NHS is suffering as a result.
It asserts that “the fundamental business model of the UK NHS is better than that of any other in a high-income country,” and puts forward the view that “the rational strategy is to recommit to the fundamental model of the NHS, fund it properly and introduce operational improvements over time” – things which Margaret Greenwood said “make a lot of sense”.
The Wirral West MP also argued during her speech that underfunding the NHS is not an economically sustainable strategy. She called on the government to focus on tackling poverty and inequality, “not only as a matter of social justice, but because we know that poverty is a key cause of ill health.”
Margaret Greenwood also used the debate to express solidarity with Clinical Support Workers in Wirral who have been taking strike action over back-pay for carrying out work above their pay band over a number of years.
Speaking after the debate, Margaret Greenwood MP said:
“Our NHS is in crisis as a result of years of underfunding by the Conservatives; instead of focusing on ensuring the service is there for us when we need it, they have been pursuing a privatisation agenda.
“Waiting lists for routine treatments recently hit a record high of 7.75 million. There are over 125,000 staffing vacancies, while many of the staff who are in post are burned out, with not enough colleagues to work alongside them.
“The situation in primary care is dire. A report published by the Royal College of General Practitioners last autumn found that 42% of GPs in England are either likely or very likely to leave the profession over the next five years.
“Recently, the Care Quality Commission rated almost two thirds of maternity services in England either “inadequate” or “requires improvement” for the safety of care.
“Targets for cancer waiting times continue to be missed, leaving patients waiting in anxiety.
“This is an appalling state of affairs that is impacting on patients and the working conditions of NHS staff.
“It is not the fundamental model of the NHS that is broken. What it needs is to be funded properly and for operational improvements to be made over time.
“The last Labour government gave the NHS the funding it needed; public satisfaction levels reflected the success of that approach. They were at their highest, at 70%, in 2010, the year Labour left office. In 2022, after over a decade of Conservative governments, it fell to a record low of 29%. That is no coincidence.
“The government must understand, too, that a government that fails the NHS fails the wider economy.
“The Chancellor of the Exchequer will have the opportunity with his autumn statement next month to increase spending in the NHS, and to tackle poverty and inequality, and I urge him to do so.
“The next government must significantly increase health spending each year. That is what the last Labour government did, and it worked.
“The NHS is arguably our country’s greatest achievement, and it is vital that we save it so that it can continue to be there for us, free at the point of use, if we become ill or have an accident.”