Sarah Wollaston urges government to get a grip on NHS ‘crisis’

  • 3 January 2018

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The government must “get a better grip” on the challenges facing the NHS in England, a senior Tory MP has said, as bosses cancelled non-urgent operations.

Officials say the move is a planned response to severe winter pressures and not evidence of a health care crisis.

But Sarah Wollaston, who chairs the health select committee, said people whose operations had been cancelled would describe it as a crisis.

And she called for an increase in funding to prevent it happening again.

“We do definitely need a better long term sustainable plan for how we’re going to get the right amount of funding into both health and social care,” Dr Wollaston, a former GP, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

She said the system was “running at absolutely full stretch across both health and social care” and “despite all the planning that we’ve heard about…. I’m afraid there are serious issues with capacity”.

There had, she argued, been “far too many bed closures” and “probably not enough money” had been spent over the years to “keep up with the sheer scale of the increase in demand and complexity”.

“We do need to spend more on health in my view and we need to have a plan for how we’re going to do that fairly, but if we just focus on the NHS alone or on social care on its own we won’t get there, we need something that plans across the whole system.”

Tens of thousands of non-urgent NHS operations and procedures may be deferred until 31 January.

Officials have estimated this could lead to up to 55,000 deferred operations, although cancer operations and time-critical procedures should go ahead as planned, NHS England said.

Labour’s shadow health spokesman Jonathan Ashworth said: “Tory underfunding and cuts have left our health service more vulnerable than ever before.

“(Health Secretary) Jeremy Hunt must urgently tell us how many elective operations he expects to be cancelled and how many more people will be waiting longer in pain and anguish because their scheduled operation has had to be cancelled.”

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