Thank you to those who contacted me about NHS funding and the pressures facing the health service this winter.
I share concerns that our NHS is facing an unprecedented winter crisis. Despite the brilliant efforts of NHS staff, statistics published by NHS England in January reveal that over 100,000 patients have been stuck in the back of ambulances for more than 30 minutes and almost 25,000 patients have waited for more than an hour.
Official targets require that 95% of patients are treated, assessed or discharged within four hours of arriving at A&E. However, the NHS has consistently failed to meet this target since July 2015. Indeed, the latest data from December 2017 shows that just 85% of patients were being seen within four hours.
It is concerning that the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) has asked NHS England to explain changes to recording A&E data since October. The UKSA say recent changes could leave people reaching "misleading conclusions" and the Royal College of Emergency Medicine has raised concerns that the scale of the crisis facing A&E may be worse than originally thought.
I believe the Government should launch an urgent investigation into claims A&E performance figures have been inconsistently recorded this winter. Ministers should clarify whether this year's winter crisis is significantly worse than currently understood.
More widely, I am concerned that the sustained underfunding of our NHS is stretching the finances of hospitals beyond their limits. Ahead of the Autumn Budget, experts said our health service required an additional £4 billion, yet the Government announced just £335 million of immediate funding for the NHS, and for social care the Chancellor did not offer a single penny.
At the General Election, the Labour manifesto pledged an additional £37 billion for the NHS to ensure it is properly resourced and able to deliver the care patients need, including maintaining the 4-hour A&E target, guaranteeing access to treatments within 18 weeks, and taking one million people off waiting lists by 2022. Unfortunately we did not win the election.
I will continue to press the Conservative Government to come up with a sustainable long-term plan for the NHS to ensure it receives the funding it needs.