Government plans for NHS ‘efficiency savings’ cannot be delivered without rationing of services, Labour’s new shadow health secretary has warned.
Speaking on the closing day of the party’s annual conference in Brighton today, Heidi Alexander said she would ‘fight the Tories’ with ‘every bone in her body’ in a bid to save the NHS from cuts.
On the Government’s plan to plug the forecasted £30bn NHS funding gap with just £8bn, Ms Alexander said that ‘savings on this scale cannot be delivered without putting patient care at risk’.
She said: ’Everyone knows it, but I’m prepared to say it. These “efficiencies” will mean cuts to staff, cuts to pay, rationing of treatments.’
Ms Alexander said that Labour ‘will not sign up to these plans to squeeze the NHS when those who work in the NHS say this would harm services’, telling Prime Minister David Cameron: ‘If you press ahead with plans that put patient care at risk, get prepared for the fight of your life.’
She also argued that the Government had already broken its promise for the Conservative Party to ‘pay what is needed’ for the NHS, as there was still no news on the promised investment in the time since the general election.
She said: ‘Before the election they said the NHS would get the funding it needs, but four months later and still no idea where the money will come from.
‘They talk about more money in 2020 – but the NHS needs extra support now.’
She also reprimanded health secretary Jeremy Hunt on the imposition of a new junior doctor contract and ‘real-term pay cuts’ for NHS staff, arguing the Tories were ‘punishing staff for their own financial mismanagement of the health service’.
She said: ‘The NHS today is in deep trouble. Five years of the Tories has left the NHS on its knees… It is not the doctors, nurses and care workers who are to blame for this. It’s David Cameron and Jeremy Hunt.
‘At the same time as they are asking staff to do more, they are paying them less… punishing staff for their own financial mismanagement of the health service. It is bad for staff and bad for patients. It must not go on.’
Recalling the successful public campaign and subsequent legal battle in her Lewisham constituency to save the A&E department which Mr Hunt had ordered to close, she highlighted that she has already ‘stood up to a Government who thought they were above the law’.
She said: ‘I will fight for the NHS with every bone in my body and I know you will join me.’
Addressing Mr Hunt, she added: ‘You might have thought you’d seen the last of me with Lewisham, but you’re going to be seeing a darn sight more of me now.’
It comes as new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused the Tories of ‘vandalising the NHS’ in his conference speech yesterday.