By Yuri Prasad
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Cuts and Covid are a fatal mix for the NHS

The crisis will be used by the Tories to push for privatisation
Issue 2800
Hospital sign for Royal Preston hospital set in lush grounds

There is a crisis at the Royal Preston Hospital, and many others

The crisis gripping the NHS is leaving A&E staff “crying with frustration and anger” as some desperately sick people wait for more than two days to be admitted onto a ward. That’s one of a number of revelations from senior emergency staff at the Royal Preston Hospital.

They paint a shocking picture of the NHS in meltdown. It’s one that will doubtless be recognised by health workers and patients across Britain.

In a letter to Trust executives in Lancashire, seen by the Health Service Journal, the heads of  Royal Preston’s emergency unit say the situation is “worse than it has ever been”. They write that often elderly patients “with multiple co-morbidities” have to sit in the hospital’s waiting room for more than 24 hours before even getting into a cubical for treatment.

It will likely then be several hours before they can get a bed on a ward. “We have witnessed senior experienced staff crying with frustration and anger as they have had to resuscitate patients in the waiting room,” the letter continues. “At most times there is limited or no space to accommodate new acutely ill patients causing ambulance handover delays of over four hours and a delay in treatment.”

With over 20,000 people currently in hospital with the virus and thousands of staff off sick, services are at the brink of collapse. And, Tory policies are to blame.

For years government ministers have allowed staffing to fall to catastrophically low levels. They also refused to raise health spending to take account of an ageing and more infirm population.

And the Tories ended all Covid restrictions despite knowing that would mean a massive increase in the number of infections. 

Millions of patients have this week been told not to go to A&E unless they are dying. Six hospitals across Yorkshire say pressures have left them no choice but to prioritise patients in “genuine life-threatening situations”. Waiting times there to see a doctor are now up to 12 hours.

“We are trying to deliver our best service to people and trying to treat emergency problems but it’s getting close to boiling point,” said Dr Andrew Lockey, from Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS.

Hospitals elsewhere are also announcing emergency measures. They include Hampshire and the Isle of Wight where health bosses are asking families to take home relatives that are patients—even if they have tested positive for the virus. Nearly every hospital across the two counties is now full.

With dozens of ambulances once again queuing outside emergency departments, a doctor in Worcestershire this week reported it took nearly 14 hours for one patient to be offloaded into the hospital.

Bosses at South Central Ambulance Service, which covers 7 million people across Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, Oxfordshire, Sussex and Surrey, declared a critical incident after “extreme pressures” forced it to prioritise patients with life-threatening illnesses.

With the health service teetering on the brink, there is now a political battle over who is to blame.

Despite all the pandemic clapping, only 36 percent of people told a recent British Social Attitudes survey they are “satisfied” with the NHS. 

The Tories desperately hope to turn dissatisfaction into a way of breaking the bonds between the majority of people and the health service they once described as “the closest thing the English people have to a religion.”

So this week The Sun newspaper wheeled out columnist Trevor Kavanagh to tell us what the Tories really think.

“The NHS has exploded from a cradle to grave health care system into a gold plated monster guzzling ever-increasing chunks of our wages in return for ever-declining health care.”

Kavanagh unwittingly points to the Tories’ actual NHS strategy. That is to run the whole system into the ground, destroy hope that it can be repaired—and then pave the way for wholesale privatisation.

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