Ilford Recorder Column 13 June 2013
When Labour left office in 2010, 98% of patients in England were seen within four hours of arriving in Accident and Emergency Departments. In opposition David Cameron promised to protect the NHS but his Government has cut almost 4,000 nurses and A&E waiting times have hit a ten-year high as those waiting longer than four hours has nearly trebled. There have always been huge pressures and challenges for our local hospitals which have often been amongst the worst in the country for waiting times. Recent figures from NHS England show that Queens and King George are now so busy that tens of thousands of local people were forced to wait more than four hours before being seen. The 95% target for patients being seen within four hours has not been met by Barking Havering and Redbridge Trust in any of the last 35 weeks. Yet the Conservative and Liberal Democrat government are still going ahead with plans to close King George A&E. On 21 May Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt confirmed to me that "the decision has been taken" and said it will happen when it is "clinically sound". This is madness.
The NHS is also reeling from a vast, top-down reorganisation that nobody wanted and nobody voted for. 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. Some council leaders warn that care services are close to collapse. We need to ensure that our NHS is protected and not destroyed by this Tory-led Government, otherwise A&E waiting times will continue to rise, nursing numbers will continue to plummet, ambulances will continue to be turned away from hospitals and people in Ilford will be the ones to suffer.