I share your concerns about the sustained underfunding of our NHS. After eight years of the biggest financial squeeze in its history, the Conservative Government has refused time and again to give our health service the funding it requires and I believe it is patients who are paying the price. This winter was the worst on record for the NHS, with hospitals overcrowded, A&E departments logjammed and the number of people waiting on trolleys rising to 221,000.
I pay tribute to the brilliant efforts of NHS staff who work tirelessly to provide the best possible care to patients despite increasing pressures. Years of pay restraint and a failure to invest in and plan properly for the workforce have resulted in vacancies for 100,000 staff, including vacancies for 40,000 nurses, 3,500 midwives and 11,000 doctors. Furthermore, the Government has abolished bursaries for nurses, midwives and allied health professionals resulting in the number of applications for nursing courses falling by over 15,000.
Ahead of the 2017 Autumn Budget experts said our health service requires an additional £4 billion a year to stop patient care deteriorating. However, the Government made just £335 million available in immediate funding and for social care the Chancellor did not offer a single penny.
I have repeatedly called for a long-term investment plan for the NHS, backed by an additional £45 billion across the next Parliament. I also support the cross-party initiative to reform the NHS and secure long-term funding for social care.
As we celebrate 70 years of our NHS, I will continue to urge the Government to bring forward proposals for a properly funded, comprehensive and reintegrated public health service.