Lisa Nandy MP: Our health system needs support
Recently I spent time talking to local nurses about the challenges they face.
With another wave of COVID coming after years of battling this pandemic, many are burnt out, a decade of Tory Government left us waiting lists before the pandemic even began and Omicron is now a clear and growing threat.
The surge in COVID infections and the possibility that large numbers of NHS front-line workers may be unable to work after becoming infected is putting massive pressure on our health system during the already demanding winter period.
NHS staff are working flat out, including their phenomenal efforts to get as many people as possible vaccinated, and they continue to deserve our gratitude and full support at this testing time.
Hospital waiting times are already sky high with millions of people across the country who need treatment being unable to access it.
Despite the sterling efforts of our local trust and the staff who work there, the latest figures from the NHS show that at the end of October 2021, there were over 36,000 people on the waiting list at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Trust (WWL).
More than 2,000 people had been waiting for more than a year for an appointment and 103 people had been waiting more than two years. Across the whole country life changing surgery, such as hip and knee replacements or cataract operations, are being put on hold.
At the outbreak of the COVID pandemic, there were already 4,235,970 people on the NHS waiting list in England. Nationally, the standard of 92% of people seen within 18 weeks of a referral has not been met since 2016.
Now, just under 6 million people, over one in 10 people in England, are on the NHS waiting list.
This is the highest ever recorded and is due to grow further, with estimates of up to 13 million people being on the list.
Figures from September show that 1.4 million patients in England were also waiting for a key diagnostic test – the highest number since records began in January 2006.
At WWL, 9,040 patients were waiting for one of 15 standard tests, such as an MRI scan, non-obstetric ultrasound or gastroscopy at this time.
Of them almost a quarter had been waiting for at least six weeks.
The best immediate defence against COVID overwhelming our already stretched local health service is urgently ramping up the vaccination programme. I encourage everyone to get their first, second and booster jabs as soon as possible.
While the Government’s bringing forward of the target date for the booster vaccination has been too slow, we have done a good job here in Wigan of rolling this out.
However, recent NHS data showed that less than half of people over 50 in Wigan had received their booster or third dose.
We need people to come forward to protect themselves, each other and the NHS.
Our health and social care system was under immense pressure before we went into the pandemic with staff shortages of 100,000 in the health service and 112,000 social care vacancies thanks to a decade of Conservative mismanagement and years of poor pay and conditions. Funding cuts mean the total number of NHS hospital beds in England has more than halved.
Primary care is at breaking point; there are 1,704 fewer fully qualified GPs than there were in 2015 - but each practice has an average of 1,849 more patients.
The Conservative Government has no plan to deal with the chronic shortage of GPs, doctors, nurses and social care staff, and has not set clear targets to reduce waiting lists and waiting times.
Our local health care staff in Wigan have been heroes in our community throughout the pandemic but they are stretched like never before.
The Government must give us the staff and support that our local services need to tackle COVID, get through the winter and make sure that more people get the treatment they so desperately need in 2022.
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