How we can save our NHS

Coun Tim Swift, leader of the Labour group on Calderdale Council, outside Calderdale Royal Hospital's A & E department
Coun Tim Swift, leader of the Labour group on Calderdale Council, outside Calderdale Royal Hospital's A & E department

In the last few days, the scale of the damage caused to our NHS by the coalition government’s policies has become even clearer.

About ten days ago, the Halifax Courier reported that the number of people waiting more than 30 minutes in an ambulance before they can be admitted to A&E has increased, with more than 200 people affected in the last 18 months in Calderdale.

Just three days later, the Huddersfield Examiner reported “Private firms battling for £284,000,000 NHS deal for Huddersfield and Kirklees”. They revealed that the provision of community health services in Kirklees is to be opened up for competitive tendering – so the NHS will be forced to compete with private providers.

This is a strong warning for Calderdale. Thanks to the competition requirements of the government’s health and social care bill, the same will happen here when the contract for community services provision has to be renewed.

Fortunately, this will not become an issue until after the next General Election. The Labour party has made it clear that if we win the General Election next May, we will repeal the coalition government’s laws which are forcing services like these to be opened up to the private sector.

Then last Friday, even more serious news broke, with the announcement that health regulator Monitor is launching an investigation into the finances at the Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Trust.

At the start of the year, the trust had planned for a surplus; now it looks like it will end the year with a £4 million deficit.

This situation is not unique to Calderdale and Huddersfield, but is being repeated round the country. It’s not the case that the trust has overspent, rather that the money it has is just not enough to cope with demand for health care.

Perhaps it’s no surprise then that a Lib Dem health minister admitted that the NHS needs an urgent cash injection if it is to avoid collapse.

Rent rise hurting the young

A new report by the Yorkshire-based Joseph Rowntree Foundation has warned that, without urgent action, we will see more and more people living in private rented property and facing a long term financial squeeze as rents rise much faster than wages.

The rise in rents is already a major reason behind the government’s failure to control the benefits bill.

That’s why Labour is pledging both to strengthen the protections available to private sector tenants, and to make sure that there’s a step change in the number of new homes built.

Without it, the future for young people in particular looks increasingly bleak.

Time for a a Tory apology?

I was pleased to see a couple of weeks ago one of the local Conservative councillors

setting out very clearly the reasoning behind the 20’s plenty policy introduced by Labour in Calderdale. It’s also good to notice that the Conservative Cabinet is continuing with Labour’s timetable for introducing the scheme.

Perhaps Coun Benton will now apologise for suggesting that the proposals we had put forward were in any way politically biased or unfair?

By Councillor Tim Swift

Leader of the Calderdale Labour Group