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In my last column, I warned that our NHS was heading for yet another winter crisis thanks to years of Tory neglect.

Only a few weeks have passed and the serious consequences are already clear: thousands of operations have been cancelled, record numbers of patients are languishing in the back of ambulances simply to enter A&E, while many hospitals up and down the country have warned that patient safety is at risk.

What makes matters worse is that this situation was both predictable and preventable, as the government was told for months that the NHS would struggle to cope this winter.

Before the last Budget, NHS bosses warned that any funding increase short of £4 billion would put the delivery of healthcare at risk - yet in the end, the Chancellor stumped up less than half this amount.

Rather than heed this advice, the Tories have wilfully ignored it - with Theresa May even having the nerve to claim that our NHS is better prepared for winter than ever before.

The fact is that almost eight years of Tory underinvestment and mismanagement have led to cash-strapped hospitals, staff facing bigger workloads, and not enough beds to cope with extra demand.

While it is obviously welcome that we are living longer, this does create additional challenges, and we need to do more to help those in old age live as independently as possible.

Yet the government is doing the opposite, as short-sighted cuts to social care and community services mean vulnerable and elderly patients have nowhere to go but hospital, where they remain stranded due to the lack of support that would allow them to return home.

All of this is putting our health service under unprecedented strain, as the sheer number of long-stay patients makes it increasingly difficult to free up beds in A&E.

And as if the situation in recent weeks wasn’t bad enough, there are warnings that it could get even worse as winter continues - meaning the outstanding efforts of doctors and nurses are unlikely to be enough to stem the tide of this crisis.

For months, the government has casually dismissed warnings from Labour and NHS staff that another winter crisis was on the horizon - and it is patients who are now facing the consequences.

They rightly expect more than half-baked apologies from ministers, but action so that our health and social care services have the funding and resources they need.

To read this article in the Sunderland Echo, click here

Bridget Phillipson MP: Action needed on NHS crisis - not half-baked apologies

In my last column, I warned that our NHS was heading for yet another winter crisis thanks to years of Tory neglect.

Bridget_Phillipson_MP_NHS.jpgOver the last two years, I’ve worked as a member of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to hold the government to account on how taxpayers' money is spent across a range of areas, from schools to hospitals, and security to social care.

Recently, we looked into the spiralling costs of clinical negligence claims, and how this is affecting the ability of hospitals to deliver vital frontline services.

Over the last 10 years, the cost of clinical negligence in the NHS has quadrupled, from £0.4 billion in 2006-07 to £1.6 billion in 2016-17.

It is vital that those who have been affected by negligence receive the support they need when things go badly wrong. However, these growing costs come at a time when our health service is increasingly strapped for cash - further limiting the resources available for frontline care.

Our inquiry found that increasing financial stress on the NHS means waiting times are getting longer, and the quality of care is under pressure – only making clinical negligence claims more likely, and costing even more in the long run.

What’s more, the government does not even seem interested in understanding why this problem is getting worse, and what can be done to address it. As the recent Budget showed, our NHS is not getting anywhere near the level of funding required to guarantee high-quality care, and avert another winter crisis.

Government ministers must get their act together to improve patient care and bring down the costs of clinical negligence.

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This is my final column of the year, and what a year of change it’s been. It’s hard to believe that Christmas is just around the corner already.

Unfortunately, Christmas can be a challenging and lonely time for many, and I know that it’s getting increasingly difficult for families to make ends meet at this time of the year. That’s why it’s so important that we take the time over the festive period to think about those who are less fortunate than ourselves, both at home and abroad.

I support the important work being done by the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, which is highlighting what we can do to make people feel less lonely, especially at this time of year - you can find out how to help out in our community on the Commission’s website.

I never cease to be amazed by the selflessness of those in our community who dedicate their time to helping others during the festive season – they truly understand the meaning of Christmas. I’d also like to take this opportunity to wish all Echo readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

To read this article in the Sunderland Echo, click here

Bridget Phillipson MP: Improvements must be made in patient care

Over the last two years, I’ve worked as a member of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to hold the government to account on how taxpayers' money is spent across a...

Bridget_Phillipson_MP_Houghton_and_Sunderland_South.jpgNext week, we will see whether the Tories can match their rhetoric about building a country that works for everyone, as the Chancellor presents his Autumn Budget to Parliament. 

Given their woeful track record over the last seven years - consistently missing their own economic targets, failing to invest in our vital public services, and presiding over a recovery based on insecure jobs and stagnating wages - I for one will not be surprised to see more of the same.

This approach simply won’t do at a time when urgent action is required to kickstart our economy, and to relieve the unprecedented strain on schools, hospitals and police forces throughout the country.

I’ve argued before that Tory polices will lead to a lost economic decade in our country. Growth remains stubbornly low, while the last decade has seen wages rise at their slowest rate since the early 1800s. While the number of people out of work has decreased nationally, our region has failed to benefit in the same way, as the north east has the highest unemployment rate in the country.

I fear the government’s failure to put our economy on a sound footing will only add to the pressure.

Take the NHS – one year on from a severe winter crisis, the warning signals are flashing once again. Recent figures show waiting times for both A&E and operations are spiralling out of control. The Chief Executive of the NHS has expressed his concern that the government is massively underfunding our health service.

The outlook for schools is hardly better. The vast majority face real-terms budget cuts despite the government’s new National Funding Formula. This will do nothing to improve our children’s life chances, at a time when class sizes are ballooning and teachers are already overstretched and under-resourced.

It’s clear the Tories have lost the economic argument, and the Chancellor must use this Budget to chart a different course. We need investment in infrastructure and education, in order to drive up productivity, and to create more high-skilled, well-paid jobs.

The chaos caused by the bungling incompetence of government ministers in recent weeks clearly show they have taken their eyes off the ball. Next week’s Budget will reveal whether the Tories are in any way serious about unleashing the economic potential that exists in regions such as ours.

To read this article in the Sunderland Echo, click here

Bridget Phillipson MP: Autumn Budget must chart a different course

Next week, we will see whether the Tories can match their rhetoric about building a country that works for everyone, as the Chancellor presents his Autumn Budget to Parliament. 


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