Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford MP Yvette Cooper calls for more investment and support for our NHS and social care.
Our NHS is 70 this week and thousands of us round here owe it our health and our lives. But our NHS and social care desperately need more investment and support. Whilst the Government has finally been forced to listen to our calls for extra investment, I don’t think their latest announcement goes far enough to get the NHS the birthday present it needs.
For a start the money promised is only just enough for the NHS to stand still - it doesn’t help us catch up after eight years of chronic Government underfunding and cuts to social care. So there’s still not enough action to tackle the long queues at A&E and long waiting times for vital treatment.
There’s still nothing for social care, which has been cut by a shocking £6.3bn, leaving families to struggle and leaving too many elderly people in hospital for too long.
The Tories have starved our NHS and social care system of the funds they need. Spending has grown by only 1.4% a year on average for eight years - less than half the historic average the NHS needs just to keep up with our ageing population and with modern drugs and treatment. That’s why we’ve had six hour waits at Pinderfields A&E this winter, why services at Pontefract have been downgraded again, why too many people struggle to get a GP appointment and why doctors and nurses are overstretched.
If the Government is really going to support our health service, they need to make sure they support social care and hospices too.
I dropped by Prince of Wales Hospice in Pontefract a few weeks ago to talk to some of the patients and catch up with some of the staff and I’m always impressed by the wonderful care and compassion they provide. But that’s why I think it is outrageous that the Government did not include hospice staff in the NHS pay rise they agreed to in March.
The government agreed to lift the public sector pay cap for NHS staff in March but has denied staff who work in charitable organisations such as the Prince of Wales Hospice in Pontefract the pay rises, leaving charities with no extra money being set aside by the government to cover the costs of pay rises. These are the workers who are looking after people in their final days, they deserve a pay rise like all of our hard working NHS staff. The government is completely wrong on this.
Hospices across the country are warning that if the government doesn’t give hospice staff the same fair deal as NHS staff then they will struggle to recruit staff, or they will have to fund the pay themselves from the charitable donations that should be going to patient services.
I have written to the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt outlining the amazing work that the Prince of Wales Hospice staff do with such dedication and sensitivity serving our local community and how wrong it is to lock them out of the NHS pay rise. I will continue to push for the government to change its mind.
Caring people are at the heart of the NHS, social care and hospice support. But if we don’t value the people who deliver the NHS, we will lose the valuable care we all depend on.