Like you, I care deeply about our National Health Service. It is one of our great national institutions and forms part of the essential fabric of our society. It is there for us all when we need it most and must be defended.

    I am aware of the recent investigation by 38 Degrees and the related report by Incisive Health into NHS England’s proposed ‘Sustainability and Transformation Plans.’ I am concerned at the report’s findings that proposed cost-saving measures include the closure or downgrading of some A&E units and reductions in the number of hospital beds.

    I believe that the analysis in Incisive Health’s report is a damning indictment of the Government’s underfunding and mismanagement of the NHS. Emergency closures of vital units across the country testify to a real crisis. As you may be aware, the Government has outlined plans to make £22 billion worth of efficiency savings in the NHS by 2020/21. I am concerned that the only way the Government will achieve these savings will be by cutting staff and pay and closing essential services. 

    Health spending rose at an historically low rate of 1.1% in real terms between 2009–10 and 2015–16. In comparison – the independent Health Charity, the Nuffield Trust – has noted that under the previous Labour Government, health expenditure growth increased at an average rate of approximately 6% per year between 1997 and 2009. 

    The current Government has cut public health funding and health education budgets and has consistently underfunded social care. The human costs of the NHS’s financial problems are longer waits and poorer care, with hospitals overcrowded and understaffed.

    In July 2016 I supported an Opposition motion in the House of Commons, which was led by my colleagues in the Shadow Health Team, and which called on the Government to set out proposals for additional NHS funding. The motion passed without a vote. My Shadow Frontbench colleagues have secured an Opposition Day debate on Sustainability and Transformation Plans in the NHS, which is taking place in the House of Commons on 7 September 2016. I can assure you that my Shadow Frontbench colleagues and I will hold the Government to account on this issue.

    With an ageing population and the associated demands on the NHS, the Government must get to grips with the funding problems, or patients will suffer and the future of a fully functioning health service will be in jeopardy. I will continue to stand up for the NHS and oppose all damaging cuts.