July 5th, 2023, marks the 75th birthday of our National Health Service, and Sheffield Labour is celebrating! Joining with nationwide festivities, Councillors have signed a giant birthday card to the NHS, we’ve floodlit our Town Hall in blue, and we’re making sure the NHS and all who have ever worked in it get the recognition they deserve in the Full Council meeting that falls on the same day.
Nye Bevan’s radical founding principles of the NHS were that it provides universal healthcare free at the point of use, and that it is not ‘charity’, but a service paid for by progressive taxation and national insurance.
But this year’s annual report of Sheffield’s Director of Public Health lays bare the negative health consequences for the people of Sheffield of wilful mismanagement of the NHS by governments since 2010. There is a common view across political parties – even the Tories themselves – that a massive investment in training and recruitment is necessary, given the abject failure of all governments since 2010 to plan for NHS workforce stability, leaving the UK in the bottom rankings in Western Europe for doctors and nurses per capita.
Labour’s Ruth Milsom, Chair of the Health Scrutiny sub-committee said,
‘Over the last thirteen years if the government had acted on a principle of ‘invest to save’, the health of the population, and of the NHS itself, would be significantly better today. But sadly the opposite is true.
‘Our NHS was founded in the midst of post-war austerity – Labour was determined to invest in the whole nation to build a healthier, thriving society. But the 2010 Lib Dem / Conservative coalition chose a different kind of ‘austerity’ that set the stage for the decline of public services we’re enduring today.
‘I’m all too familiar with the terrible statistics that have been coming out for years. In Sheffield NHS waiting lists are at record levels with over 86 000 people waiting for treatment at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – that’s almost 1 in 6 of the population of our city.
‘In Sheffield, like everywhere else in the country, we see the extra pressure that NHS services are under because social care is drastically under-resourced. We have a plan for a proper care service when Labour gets into government. We will give social care equal esteem with the NHS, so that more and better care can be delivered for people directly in their own homes, and they can live the lives they choose.
‘Vacancies across the NHS have numbered well over 100k for years. This is a direct product of the government’s refusal to plan for the future. There are such obvious consequences that it is hard to believe these politicians really want an NHS if they won’t invest in the people who deliver services. People leave the profession early or move to the private sector because pay and conditions have declined so badly. There are not enough training places made available. I hear repeatedly from local NHS commissioners and directors locally that workforce shortfall due to stress, declining pay, and low morale is the biggest barrier to them delivering the very best for Sheffield.
‘Awarding permanent staff a 5%-above-inflation pay rise would cost a fraction of what is spent on agency staff to plug vacancies. It is a total false economy to hold back on fair pay, and not a responsible way to use public finances.
’Labour has a plan to build an NHS fit for the future – fit for families in Sheffield to rely on. That means a health service that is there when people need it, with fewer lives lost to the biggest killers, in a fairer Britain, where everyone can access social care and live well for longer. And we’ll start with one of the greatest workforce expansions our health service has ever seen – fully funded by scrapping the non-dom status.’