Labour has a long-term plan for NHS but we don’t, warns Tory former minister

Labour has a plan for the NHS but the Government does not, a Conservative former minister has warned.

Sir Edward Leigh also told the Commons that people who had paid taxes all their lives were facing “the back of a two-year queue” for medical treatment, as he urged ministers to address the multiple problems facing the health service.

He joined other Conservative MPs airing their concerns about the NHS, as Health Secretary Steve Barclay set out the Government’s plans to address immediate winter pressures facing hospitals, as well as longer term initiatives to prevent pressure building up again.

Gainsborough MP Sir Edward told the Commons: “They also have Covid and flu in France or Germany or Italy or Sweden or Holland. And winter after winter they cope far better because they have much more integrated social insurance systems.

“What is our long-term plan? We can’t leave the Labour Party to have a long-term plan and we don’t.

“How are we going to reform this centrally controlled construct… the people of my age pay taxes all their life and their only right is enjoying the back of a two-year queue. What is his plan?”

Mr Barclay replied: “Firstly, integrating between health and social care through the integrated care boards… recognising that actually the pressures on the NHS are often as much about pressure in social care as they are in the NHS itself.”

Sir Edward Leigh
Sir Edward Leigh (House of Commons/PA)

He also said ministers were “recognising that there are workforce pressures” and that NHS England is working on a workforce plan.

The Health Secretary said the Government has already set out an elective recovery plan, and suggested waiting time data in England was favourable compared with Labour’s in Wales.

He added: “Actually in France, in Germany, in Canada, in many other countries, this massive spike in flu and Covid pressure combined with the pressures from the pandemic has placed similar strains on other healthcare systems.”

Tory former cabinet minister Priti Patel asked when the extra funding announced by Mr Barclay would reach the front line, saying healthcare professionals need it to “give the care that they really believe in”.

She mentioned issues in her Witham constituency including GP-to-patient ratios, a shortage of diagnostic facilities, and that Essex County Council needs more resources for adult social care.

She said: “Can he tell me, write to me please, to give me the specific details of when on all three of those areas in Essex we will see the money that he has announced today actually come to the front line?

“Because our doctors and nurses need that money and the resources to do really what they joined the profession for, which is to give the care that they really believe in to members of the public.”

The Health Secretary responded: “In terms of the £500 million announced in the autumn statement, local authorities gave the department and NHS England their data returns on Friday, so we will have data. I’ll be able to share more specifically in terms of the £500 million.

“In terms of the £250 million announced today… that is for very urgent delivery into systems and that will be going out extremely quickly.”