“The Tories knew there would be an NHS winter crisis but did nothing”

Polly Toynbee writes in the Guardian: “Doctors and managers around the country are warning they have never seen it so bad, so many sick people in long trolley queues, ambulances stacked up outside, no beds free. And so far, though there are more flu cases, there is no flu epidemic. This is normal winter: what’s abnormal is the longest squeeze in funding the NHS has ever known. The lack of nurses and doctors was planned: cutting nurse training was one of the first acts of the Cameron government in 2010.

“Seasoned observers doubted the feasibility of the Blair-Brown pledge to bring waiting times down to a maximum 18 weeks, cancer waits to two weeks, A&E to four hours. But by pledging to raise NHS funding to EU average levels, they did it. Waiting lists were all but abolished.

“But that’s a distant golden age: since 2010 the NHS has gone into steady reverse, its funding falling further behind the 15 comparable EU countries. Now spending 5% less, despite accelerating numbers of the old, the NHS has considerably fewer beds, doctors and nurses per head than those countries.

“Endless #NHS restructuring matters less than the bottom line. Labour’s 2000-2010 funding uplift showed what the NHS can be. There is an iron law: when NHS funding falters, there will be winter crises with operations cancelled, A&E’s overflowing and black alerts. As trusts have been ordered to spend scarce capital on running costs, leaving no money to replace old equipment and decaying infrastructure, the future looks worse still. This is NHS Narnia, winter all year round.”

[Read full column on Guardian website…]