Yvonne Fovargue MP: The Government must address the care backlog
Yvonne Fovargue is the Labour MP for Makerfield.
I share the concern that cancer pathways have been affected by the pandemic and I agree that we need a fully resourced plan to address the growing backlog of unmet clinical need.
Estimates suggest more than 40,000 fewer people started cancer treatment last year, three million screenings were missed and there was a 39 per cent drop in the number of key diagnostic tests carried out.
We should not have to choose between COVID-19 care and cancer care, yet for too many that has been the stark reality, and it means that an additional 4,500 avoidable cancer deaths are expected in 2021 because of pandemic disruptions.
Even before the pandemic, waiting times were rising and key cancer targets were repeatedly being missed.
I remain concerned that years of NHS underfunding, cuts and understaffing weakened and exposed our health service as the pandemic hit.
As a result, waiting lists for treatment now stand at a record 5.1 million, with over 385,000 patients waiting longer than a year.
At the Budget in March, the Chancellor missed a crucial opportunity to address the long-term funding needs of our health service.
NHS staff, who have put their lives on the line, need the resources to rebuild our National Health Service. Instead, Ministers are cutting day-to-day health spending and they have proposed a real term pay cut for hardworking staff.
I believe the Government must prioritise patient care in the recovery from COVID-19. It is crucial that Ministers provide hospitals, our NHS staff and patients with a fully resourced rescue plan.
More widely, the Royal College of Radiologists has warned that without the investment in the workforce, NHS trusts across England will be unable to recover lost capacity or address growing backlogs.
I believe the Government must put together a proper solution for recruitment and retention, starting with a guarantee of a fair and decent pay rise for all NHS staff, in recognition of their dedication throughout the pandemic.
The Government should make good on its promise to fully resource our health service to provide effective, timely diagnosis and referral, and make sure that all cancer patients receive the care and treatment they need.
Last week Parliament debated proposals by the Government to reform the planning system.
The debate was timely given that in the same week the Government gave the go ahead for large scale Logistics development on greenbelt land at Junction 25, M6 near Bryn and Winstanley.
I am concerned that the measures threaten to remove important safeguards in the planning system and will exclude local councils and communities from having their say over local planning decisions.
Under the proposals, residents living in areas zoned for growth will find that they no longer have an automatic right to object to individual planning applications on their own doorsteps, no right to object to oversized blocks at the end of the street and no right to object to concreting over green spaces.
Critics have warned that a move to lighter regulation could weaken environmental and wildlife protections, side-line local community involvement and lead to the development of the next generation of slum housing
The Government said its reforms aim to simplify and accelerate the planning process. I am concerned that the Government’s proposals amount to a “Developer’s Charter” that will remove powers from communities and hand them to Whitehall-appointed boards of developers.
A further proposal to increase the number of developers exempted from paying fees as a condition for receiving planning permission could also lead to a huge loss of affordable housing and local infrastructure such as schools, GP surgeries and transport. In my view, the problem with getting homes built is not the planning process; it is developers who do not build the homes once they have consent.
Nine in 10 planning applications get approval, yet according to the Local Government Association, over 1.1 million homes that received consent in the past decade have still not been built.
I support calls for new measures that incentivise developers to get homes built more quickly.
Instead of side-lining local councils and communities – that are best placed to make decisions about planning in their areas – I believe the Government should reconsider its proposals and put communities at the heart of the planning process, strengthening the resources of our planning system and strengthening local democracy.
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