Murad Qureshi AM is Labour’s City Hall spokesperson for health and environment and a Labour London-wide Assembly member
The outlook for London’s NHS is bleak. If NHS bosses go through with their proposals, eight Accident and Emergency departments will be closing over the next few years.
New analysis shows London’s A&Es will be forced to cater for an extra 120,000 residents each by 2020 if the population increases as predicted. The 32 A&Es serve a population of 8.17million Londoners, an average of 255,000 people each.
Reducing to 24 A&Es will mean A&Es have to cover 340,000 people each. With London’s population due to rise to 9million by 2020 this will mean each will cover 375,000 residents – an increase of 120,000 for each A&E, assuming no further closures take place.
A recent review (pdf) by the King’s Fund pointed to growing concerns from NHS finance directors about how the £20 billion productivity challenge – which must be delivered by 2015 – will affect the NHS.
There is already growing pressure on patient care with the number of patients waiting longer than four hours in A&E at its highest point since 2004/5. There have also been increased trolley waits in A&E, waiting times for operations, and pressure from emergency admissions.
And more than 5,500 nurses across the country have been lost in the NHS since the coalition government took over. The symptoms of an over-stretched service are now beginning to show.
But it’s not just the hospitals that are under pressure. Londoners face being caught in a pincer of far fewer A&Es and a thinly-stretched ambulance service. The London Ambulance Service is facing steep cuts at a time when London’s population is growing and getting older.
The LAS will lose £53million (19%) of its budget by 2015/16. The current plans are to cut 890 of the 5,000 jobs at the LAS, of which 560 will be frontline staff. This will likely be achieved by natural turnover, which will lead to many posts being unfilled. The LAS is a vital service and last year dealt with 1.6 million calls inLondon.
The fact is the government has cut the NHS’s budget in real terms, by failing to invest more than the measly 0.1% a year and encouraging its policy of under-spending. David Cameron made a solemn pledge to maintain NHS funding – he has broken that promise.
It has been heartening to see Londoners fight these proposals for closures at a local level. Londoners are speaking out, yet the Mayor of London is nowhere to be seen. He says it’s nothing to do with him, but that hasn’t stopped him repeatedly campaigning to reduce the top rate of tax – which he personally benefits from to the tune of £12,000.
As a nation, we are proud of our National Health Service. We need to stand up and ensure we preserve the principles that underpin the NHS, continue to invest in new care and improve outcomes for patients and hand the NHS onto the next generation.