Column for Ilford Recorder December 2013
Despite the efforts of hardworking dedicated staff 2013 has been a very bad year for the NHS. The closure of maternity wards at King George ended almost 90 years of women having their babies at an Ilford hospital. The Recorder has highlighted the crisis of long waits for ambulances. Damning reports by the Care Quality Commission on Barking Havering and Redbridge Trust revealed serious problems. Queens Hospital Romford cannot cope but coalition Health Ministers still plan to close our Ilford Accident and Emergency by 2015. As I told the recent Save King George public meeting "this madness will lead to disaster". Nationally we had the worst year in A&E for at least a decade and the first summer A&E crisis in living memory. One million people waited more than four hours to be seen . There are fewer nurses, fewer beds, and shortage of senior A&E doctors. Pressure on A&E has become even more intolerable since alternatives to casualty were taken away. The dismantling of NHS Direct, a trusted and established service, ranks as one of the worst acts of vandalism. The privatised 111 service replaced nurses with call handlers and computers and often sends people to A&E unnecessarily. The government's devastating cuts to budgets for social care mean fewer older people are getting the help they need to stay healthy and independent in their own homes. Before the General Election David Cameron promised to protect the NHS. But instead his Government has cut 6,642 nurses and left the NHS reeling from a vast, top-down reorganisation. Let's hope 2014 is better than 2013. I would like to wish all readers a Merry Christmas and a happy, peaceful and prosperous New Year.