Diane Abbott MP: 'The NHS is not resourced sufficiently to provide a seven day a week service'
The Shadow Health Secretary gave a brief speech to welcome attendees at the Health and Care Forum Reception on Sunday evening at the Labour conference.
The House Magazine's political editor Dan Bond introduced the Shadow Secretary of State also highlighting the full health and social care forum debate that would be happening the following morning.
Abbott began by saying how proud she was to be shadow health secretary given her mother's long career as a nurse in the NHS. She said this meant she had a personal commitment to protecting the NHS, saying that its establishment should still be considered a remarkable achievement that countries like the USA could only dream of. She thought that nothing spoke to the socialist commitment to support all people and parts of society like the NHS.
However, she described the erosion of the underlying principles of the NHS which she had seen over recent years. She said the Conservatives saw it as an inconvenience on their books and that NHS providers had also recognised attacks being waged against the service with consequences such as the closure of hospitals and scrapping of training bursaries.
The financial implications of cuts and inadequate funding could be seen in the junior doctors' crisis, she thought. "You cannot expect an NHS without enough money for a fully resourced five day service to provide a seven day service" she stated, continuing by raising concerns about the cuts to local government and community funding, which were compounding pressures on primary and secondary care. She gave the example of the large numbers of people in hospital who were ready to leave, but could not be discharged due to insufficient social care planning.
Turning to the Sustainability and Transformation Plans, Abbott chose to refer to them repeatedly as "Social and Transformation Plans". She said they were being drawn up in secret and were a means of driving through cuts and reconfigurations without scrutiny.
She reiterated the party's commitment to bringing service levels up to match levels of need, saying that everyone needed to remember the role of the NHS throughout their lives. She admitted there were big issues that need to be discussed, but that debate needed to be underpinned by the belief of an NHS free at the point of use, providing universal coverage, alongside support and protection for health care professionals.