NHS: As lives are lost, SNP and Tories ignore health service crisis and play fantasy politics instead – Ian Murray MP

As the Tory leadership battle descends into a chaotic spectacle of personal mud-slinging, desperate policy U-turns and an honest trashing of their own record in office, there is one stark omission: the NHS.

Thursday, 28th July 2022, 4:55 am
Waiting times for NHS treatment have been growing (Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Waiting times for NHS treatment have been growing (Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

In the first TV debate between Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss, they had nothing to say about the future of our NHS. And none of the other defeated contenders had anything to say either.

Ignoring our most-cherished public service, which is today in peril, does a grave disservice to our politics.

Right across the UK, there are around seven million people on waiting lists, with A&E waiting times at their highest ever. There is a devastating cancer-care backlog and what the British Medical Association has called a “once-in-a-generation backlog of unimaginable proportions”.

Ambulance services are at the highest level of alert, with patients left waiting outside hospitals because there aren’t beds or staff to admit them. Our amazing NHS staff are exhausted, their morale and well-being at rock bottom.

But the two Tories vying to be PM are turning a blind eye to this, instead engaging with fantasy economics to appeal to their party’s hard-right.

Their self-indulgence is an insult to the people who rely on and work in our NHS. Right across the UK, our health and care services need leadership right now.

That’s why Labour would recruit and retain more carers through better pay and conditions, easing pressures on the health service and providing better care for patients.

Of course, while the Tories have let down millions of patients, in Scotland it’s the SNP which has responsibility for running the NHS. And the nationalists’ record is just as bad.

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Thousands of Scots are now waiting over eight hours for ‘emergency’ treatment on a weekly basis. One-in-four calls to NHS24 are abandoned. The longest waiting times in history. A GP and dentistry crisis. The highest drug deaths rate in Europe.

Lives are being lost.

But just like his English counterpart Steve Barclay, Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf has disappeared. Because, just like the Tories, the SNP don’t want to talk about the NHS either.

They are instead fixated on their own version of fantasy economics: the notion that breaking up the UK and devastating public spending as a result would somehow be good for Scotland’s NHS.

It takes two minutes for Nicola Sturgeon to concoct a new constitutional grievance, but it’s taken more than two years – and counting – for the Scottish Government to respond to an NHS Lothian request for help with the GP crisis in Edinburgh or the service will “fail”.

As anyone living in the south of the city knows, accessing a GP is now an extraordinary challenge. And it’s only going to get worse as housebuilding continues.

It’s the same story when it comes to dental care. Just 16 of Edinburgh’s 104 dental practices offering NHS services are accepting new adult patients.

SNP incompetence in delivering basic healthcare infrastructure has left new and existing residents without access to vital NHS services. Their only focus is another referendum.

It’s time for both the SNP and Tories to spend less time in their fantasy worlds, and more time in the real world where our NHS is in crisis – and needs urgent attention.

Ian Murray is Labour MP for Edinburgh South