The NHS is battling through a difficult winter once again. Claims the NHS was ‘more prepared than ever before’ ring hollow with patients who had their operations cancelled at the last minute, or waited on trolleys in corridors in busy A&E departments.
Tens of thousands of people are preparing to take to the streets tomorrow to show solidarity and support for our wonderful NHS staff and to remind ministers that we will not accept them being taken for granted.
A winter crisis shouldn’t be inevitable. We should never be close to the situation we continually find ourselves in.
In Greater Manchester, where devolution has given us control of our local health spending, we’re already seeing a real difference.
By bringing social care and the NHS together, we have reduced delayed discharges from hospital by a third over the last year – which means roughly 100 patients a day are going home sooner.
But we can only do so much.
Few would disagree that we need to find more money for both the NHS and social care.
Some have put forward the idea of an ‘NHS and Care Convention’ to make recommendations on the long-term funding of health and social care.
My worry is that this is a convenient way of putting difficult issues off until another day while the NHS slips further into trouble.
We don’t have the luxury of time to wait for yet another report. Kicking the issue of health and care funding into the long-grass will do nothing to prevent next winter’s crisis, or the winter after that.
I’m happy to put my cards on the table. I still believe that social care should be funded on the same basis as the NHS. This would see a system in which everybody contributes and has the peace of mind of knowing that all of their care needs are covered.
Whatever the solution is, we need it now. Lives are truly at stake and, the longer that we delay this decision, the harder it will be to rescue our NHS.