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Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves calls for Government action over ‘worrying’ NHS pressures

By John Baron

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves has labelled the government’s handling of the NHS as ‘scandalous’ – and has called on them to outline ways they plan to tackle the current crisis.

In a letter shared with WLD today, the Leeds West Labour MP has told health secretary Steve Barclay that ‘the public cannot afford for our National Health Service to be in a state of permanent crisis’ and has asked how he intends to tackle the problems engulfing the NHS.

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Her comments come the same day as some senior doctors described the NHS as being on a knife edge, with some A&Es in the UK in a “complete state of crisis”.

Last week, Leeds NHS chiefs warned that ‘emergency departments have very high volumes of attendances resulting in overcrowding, long waits to be seen and for people requiring admission.’ They also called on GPs to ‘step down routine and non-urgent activity’ to help reduce the increased pressures to emergency care. 

In her letter, Ms Reeves said: “I have confidence that our NHS professionals in West Yorkshire will do their best to respond as best they can to an extremely challenging situation. However, the Conservative government has been repeatedly warned about pressure on the NHS, the consequences of ministerial decisions and the lack of planning.

“It is scandalous that the government has allowed the NHS to have insufficient capacity to meet demand in emergency care in West Yorkshire. 

“Over a number of years my constituents in Leeds West have witnessed a deterioration of NHS services, soaring hospital waiting lists and difficulties in accessing GP appointments. In my 13 years as the MP for Leeds West I have never known such an alarming state of the service and the responsibility for this rests with the government. 

“The public cannot afford for our National Health Service to be in a state of permanent crisis. I want my constituents to be able to dial 999 and for an ambulance arrive when it is needed with a bed available at the end of the journey.

“The public need timely access to their GPs and not have to wait for many months and even over a year in pain and discomfort for hospital operations. Our NHS workforce need to be valued and the recruitment and retention crisis needs to be addressed as part of a proper plan for the workforce. 

“I would be grateful if you could acknowledge the NHS crisis in West Yorkshire and set out how the government intends to address it in the short and the medium term. When will the government finally act and increase training of NHS workforce on the scale Labour has proposed funded by the abolition of non dom tax status? I would urge the government to adopt this policy in the forthcoming Budget.”

Hospitals are currently experiencing soaring demand, which experts believe is in part driven by winter illnesses like flu and Covid. Some 13% of hospital beds in England are filled with people with Covid or flu, NHS England figures showed.

WLD has approached the Department for Health and Social Care for comment.

A spokesperson told the BBC earlier today: “NHS staff do an incredible job and we recognise the pressures the NHS is facing following the impact of the pandemic.

“That’s why we’ve backed the NHS and social care with up to £14.1bn additional funding over the next two years and this winter we have provided an extra £500m to speed up hospital discharge and free up beds.

“We also awarded a 9.3% pay rise to the lowest earners in the NHS last year.

“The health secretary and ministers have met with unions several times and have been clear their door remains open to further discuss how we can work together to improve the working lives of NHS staff.”

Amid rising cases of flu, Covid and strep A, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has issued advice urging people to stay home if unwell, and wear a mask if they have to go out.

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