Labour calls for £500m extra for NHS to help avert winter crisis

The NHS needs an additional £500m to ensure it can cope with winter pressures this year, Labour's shadow health secretary will say today.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth (Photo: Mark Kerrison/Alamy Stock Photo)
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth (Photo: Mark Kerrison/Alamy Stock Photo)

Jonathan Ashworth will tell the Labour Party Conference in Brighton that a Labour government would set up a £500m 'emergency winter fund' so that patients and families do not have to suffer in the way they did last year.

He is expected to say: ‘Last winter, Theresa May stuck her head in the sand and refused to give the NHS the money it needed to keep services running properly.

‘This decision pushed NHS staff beyond their limits and caused misery for patients in every part of the country. It can’t be allowed to happen again.’

BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul warned that the NHS was in danger of ‘sleepwalking into yet another crisis’ that had the potential to be much worse than winter last year.

However he and other NHS leaders warned that long-term investment and workforce planning was needed to help avoid the ‘year-round pressures’ the NHS now faces.

Long-term funding

Dr Nagpaul said: ’We’ve yet to hear of any concrete plans from the government on exactly how they plan to stop a repeat of last year and any new injection of cash and resources will of course help ease pressure during the winter.

‘The NHS also needs politicians of all parties to end the pattern of short-termism that plagues NHS policymaking. Long-term investment and workforce planning are urgently needed. If spending on the NHS matched that of other leading EU countries, then patients would see £15bn extra investment in the English NHS within five years. This additional funding could be used to provide tens of thousands of extra hospital beds, recruit thousands more GPs and reverse the cuts made to the public health budget rather than slashing budgets further.

‘The NHS is at breaking point because, quite simply, investment isn’t keeping up with demand.’

Nigel Edwards, chief executive of the Nuffield Trust, said: ‘The NHS faces one of the toughest winters in its history. However, a one-off financial bung is not going to solve these problems. The shortages of beds and staff have been years in the making, and cannot simply be reversed in a few months.

'We need a long term funding settlement for health and social care so that the NHS can actually plan on the basis of having enough resources. All political parties have been avoiding this question for too long.’

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