'Get a grip' on NHS pressures, Tory chair of Health Committee tells Theresa May

Posted On: 
3rd January 2018

The Conservative chair of the influential Health Select Committee has urged Theresa May and Philip Hammond to "get a grip" on the pressures facing the NHS. 

Sarah Wollaston said the NHS had been underfunded for a 'number of years'

Sarah Wollaston spoke out after it was announced that hospitals in England would postpone tens of thousands of operations to cope with winter pressures.

Dr Wollaston, who has practised as a GP herself, said the Prime Minister and Chancellor had not grasped the challenges facing the service. 

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"Personally I think they've obviously both come from departments which have seen cuts themselves, Defence and the Home Office, and have had to deal with those," she told the Today programme.

"But the point is if you have a very major increase in people who are living longer with complex conditions that produces particular demands on the health system.

"That I think they need to get a better grip on, to understand the sheer scale of the increase in demand across health and social care.

"That's what they need to do better planning for. And there are many people prepared to come together with good will across political parties to help them achieve that and I think they should take that opportunity."

The Totnes MP is one of the 90 MPs who last year wrote to Mrs May and Mr Hammond calling for a cross-party convention on the future of the NHS to create a "sustainable settlement".

While she declined to describe the health service as in "crisis", Ms Wollaston argued the NHS had been underfunded over a long period.

"Certainly what we have is a system that's running at absolutely full stretch across both health and social care," she said.

"I'm afraid there are serious issues with capacity, far too many bed closures that have happened and probably not enough money that's gone in over a number of years now to keep up with the sheer scale of the increase in demand and complexity."