Shocking A&E waiting times in Birmingham show you can’t trust the Tories with the NHS


Do you remember seeing this General Election poster by David Cameron, promising that he’d protect the NHS?

The deepening crisis of A&E waiting times, which have hit a ten-year high, shows that you just can’t trust the Tories with the NHS.

This week data from NHS England shows that the Queen Elizabeth Hospital A&E which serves the Northfield constituency has missed the target of seeing 95% of patients within four hours in 28 out of the last 30 weeks.

This is a crisis that has started on the Government’s watch. When Labour left office, 98% of patients in A&E were seen within four hours. But since 2010 the number of people waiting longer than four hours has nearly trebled and patients are now being held in the the back of ambulances as they queue to be seen. Over the past year the number of people in the West Midlands waiting over an hour to be transferred from an ambulance to A&E has doubled to 8000.

There is no one simple explanation for the A&E crisis but a number of causes that the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is failing to take responsibility for. Firstly, the NHS is now struggling under a complicated and costly top-down reorganisation that many of my constituents were strongly against. Secondly, we know that nurses are the backbone of our NHS but this Government has cut 4000 nurses since 2010. The impact on our hospitals is now becoming all too clear.

And lastly, there are deeper causes of the A&E crisis. The Government’s devastating cuts to budgets for social care mean fewer older people are getting the help they need to stay healthy and independent in their own homes. I know from the level of correspondence I have received on this issue that this is an issue of huge importance to local people, and I have written to Jeremy Hunt pressing him to fully fund the health and social care budget.

In March, George Osborne took back £2 billion from the NHS budget in “underspends” to make up for his failed economic policy. Labour would protect the NHS from the A&E crisis by investing £1.2 billion of this to ease the crisis in social care over the next two years. This could fund an extra 70 million hours of home care across England, or provide home based care for an extra 65,000 older people. We are not backing away from tackling the root causes of the A&E crisis.

We need to ensure that our NHS is protected and not destroyed by the Tory-led Government. If we do not, A&E waiting times will continue to rise, nursing numbers will continue to plummet, ambulances will continue to be turned away from hospitals and people in the Northfield area will be the ones feeling the pain.

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Richard Burden

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I was Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Northfield between 1992 and 2019 and a former Shadow Transport Minister. I now chair Healthwatch in Birmingham and Solihull, and the West Midlands Board of Remembering Srebrenica. I also work as a public affairs consultant. I am an effective community advocate and stakeholder alliance builder with a passion for human rights. I am a trustee of the Balfour Project charity and of Citizens Advice Birmingham, and a former Chair of Medical Aid for Palestinians.

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