I care deeply about our National Health Service. It is one of our great national institutions and forms part of the essential fabric of our society. It is there for us all when we need it most and must be defended.
I share my constituents' concerns about the financial pressures facing the NHS and agree that it needs more investment. Health spending rose at an historically low rate of 1.1 per cent in real terms between 2009-10 and 2015-16. The Nuffield Trust, an independent health charity, has said that 'the NHS in England is facing an unprecedented financial challenge following the longest period of constrained funding that it has ever faced'. NHS trusts collectively finished last year (2015-16) with a record deficit of £2.45 billion, the biggest overspend in the NHS's history.
The Government promised in the 2015 Spending Review to provide increased funding to the NHS. I am concerned that the House of Commons Health Select Committee noted in July that "the increase in health funding is less than was promised if assessed by the usual definitions" and that "the funding announced in the Spending Review does not meet the Government's commitment to fund the Five Year Forward View".
The Five Year Forward View plan for the NHS includes efficiency savings of £22 billion. I am concerned that the only way the Government will achieve the savings will be by cutting staff and pay and closing essential services.
I am also concerned by the Government's cuts to public health and health education budgets and the underfunding of social care, which increase pressure on the NHS. The human costs of the NHS's financial problems are longer waits and poorer care, with hospitals overcrowded and understaffed. I recently spoke in Parliament particularly about the impact this has on older people. You can read my speech here.
In July I supported an Opposition motion in the House of Commons which called on the Government to set out proposals for additional NHS funding. The motion passed without a vote and I can assure you I will continue to hold the Government to account on this issue.
With an aging population and the associated demands on the NHS, the Government must get to grips with the funding problems, or patients will suffer and the future of a fully functioning health service will be in jeopardy.
Published on 13th January 2017