Labour will oppose NHS £22bn efficiency savings, shadow health secretary tells party conference

Labour will oppose plans for £22bn efficiency savings in the NHS in England, the shadow health secretary has said.

Heidi Alexander: ‘Labour will not sign up these plans to squeeze the NHS'
Heidi Alexander: ‘Labour will not sign up these plans to squeeze the NHS'

In her first conference address in the position Heidi Alexander said NHS workers knew the plans agreed between NHS England and the government could not be delivered without putting patient care at risk.

‘These efficiencies mean cuts to staff, they mean cuts to pay, they mean the rationing of treatments, and it will be patients who suffer,' she said.

‘Labour will not sign up these plans to squeeze the NHS when those who work in the NHS say this would harm services.’

Addressing David Cameron, Ms Alexander said: ‘If you press ahead with plans that put patient care at risk, get prepared for the fight of your life.’

Earlier this year, BMA chairman Dr Mark Porter said the government had 'failed to show' how the savings could be delivered.

NHS England's chief executive Simon Stevens agreed to find £22bn of savings to help plug the expected £30bn funding gap by 2020. The government pledged to fund the remaining £8bn a year. But many health service and policy leaders believe the target is unachievable.

NHS is 'on its knees'

Ms Alexander, who was a leading figure in the campaign against the downgrading of services at Lewisham hospital in her south-east London constituency, said the NHS was ‘on its knees’ after five years of Conservative government.

But, she said, doctors, nurses or care workers are not to blame. ‘It is David Cameron and Jeremy Hunt’.

‘NHS staff work tirelessly day in, and day out. And yes, Mr Hunt, they even work weekends too,' she added.

Ms Alexander said ‘we have a duty of care’ to NHS workers, but the government was making life harder for them.

‘At the same time as they are asking NHS staff to do more, they are paying them less’, she said. ‘Many doctors and nurses are likely to face real terms pay cuts over the next four years. And now the government wants to impose a new junior doctors’ contract that risks returning to the bad old days of overworked doctors too exhausted to provide safe patient care.’

The government, she said, was ‘punishing staff for their own financial mismanagement of the health service'.

Ms Alexander renewed her party’s pledge made ahead of the last election to create an integrated health and care service and said Labour would put mental health at the centre of policy.

Photo: The Climate Coalition/Flickr

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