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Andy Burnham MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, in this afternoon’s debate on NHS spending cuts in the House of Commons, said:
“We set ourselves a challenging task with today’s Opposition Day: to bring some much-needed honesty to the public debate on the NHS and NHS spending.
“Across the country, people can see the signs of an NHS in increasing distress. Cataract operations being restricted; A&E departments and Walk-In Centres closed; hospitals ‘full to bursting’; and over 7000 nursing jobs lost.
“And yet they see Ministers standing at that Despatch Box making complacent boasts about the
“real-terms increases” they had given the NHS. The mismatch between Ministerial rhetoric and the reality on the ground is in danger of causing real confusion in the NHS.
“Last week, the Secretary of State received a letter from the Chair of the UK Statistics Authority, Andrew Dilnot, asking him to clarify Ministers’ statements. His judgement was that NHS spending was lower in real-terms after the first two years of the Coalition than when Labour left office.
“The Prime Minister has cut the NHS. Fact. Today, we invite the Secretary of State today to correct the Parliamentary record in person.
“It was this Government which allowed the resulting £1.9 billion NHS underspend to be swiped back by the Treasury – contrary to the promise they gave the NHS that all savings would be re-invested. And it is this Government that still has published plans issued by HM Treasury for a further cut of 0.3% to the NHS in 2013/14 and 2014/15.
“The reason why the Government’s cuts feel much deeper to people working in the NHS is because they are contending with the added effect of a re-organisation that nobody in the NHS wanted and they pleaded with the Government to stop. Cuts and re-organisation – it’s a toxic mix.
“According to the Government’s own figures, a full £1.6 billion has been diverted away from patient care and the NHS front-line and spent on back-office restructuring. Look at the waste already: a full £1 billion spent on managerial redundancies – 1,300 six-figure pay-outs and, scandalously, 173 over £200,000.
“Unjustifiable and unforgivable when patients are seeing treatment restricted and nurses laid off in their thousands.
“For two years, we have had the mismatch of Ministers making boasts about rising spending while the number of staff was heading south at an alarming rate. A full 7,134 nursing posts have been lost since the Coalition came in – 943 in the last month alone. In its annual report, the Care Quality Commission found that 16% of hospitals in England did not have adequate staffing levels.
“Government cuts to the NHS is behind the growing number of restrictions on treatment. We have revealed how 125 separate treatments have been restricted or stopped altogether since 2010 – including cataracts, knee replacement and varicose veins.
“We’re losing the NHS and that’s why we will keep stepping up the fight for it. People will remember well the personal promises this Prime Minister made on the NHS to win office – promises it now seems that had more to do with his desire to de-toxify the Tory brand than any genuine regard from the NHS.
“Tonight this House can’t vote to stop the damage. But it can put down a marker against an arrogant and incompetent Government that it needs to show the NHS, its patients and staff, more respect.”