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The News Line: News LABOUR CONDEMNS ‘DEEP SAVAGE NHS CUTS!’ LABOUR’S shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth yesterday hit out at Tory cuts, saying the NHS winter crisis ‘was entirely predictable and indeed entirely preventable.’


He told Andrew Marr: ‘We’re now in the eighth year of tight austerity on NHS finances
‘We’ve seen community health services cut back, we’ve seen a reduction in district nurses, we’ve seen a reduction of around 14,000 beds.

‘In many community health services, because they’ve been privatised, money is actually going to private companies, not the front line. And we’ve seen savage, deeply savage cuts to our social care sector, which means many elderly people not getting the support they deserve.’

Questioned about waiting times in Wales where Labour is running the NHS, Ashworth said: ‘Well, the NHS in Wales is under pressure, but they’ve not cancelled operations like they’ve had to in England. We’ve got a whole month of cancelled operations (in England).

He pointed out that the Welsh government ‘hold a much better record than England has on social care because they’re spending eight per cent more on social care in Wales, and they’ve not savagely cutting the social care budgets like the Tory government has in England.’

Ashworth said: ‘If there was a Labour government across the United Kingdom we would be putting more money into the National Health Service, which would have Barnett consequentials for Wales and indeed, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

He pledged Labour would spend ‘around six billion pounds’ extra for the NHS. ‘I mean in England for 2018 we’ll be spending around 126 billion. They’re spending around 121. It’s gone up slightly since the Chancellor’s Budget announcement so it’s probably around 5 billion extra now for 2018 but it’s still a substantial increase, because we put forward an extra £6 billion a year in our manifesto last year. The Conservatives made promises about real terms increases on a per capita basis, on a head for head basis which they’re not going to hit.’

Ashworth went on to say: ‘We have not had a winter crisis on this scale for years and years and years and it is because of the cuts, it’s because at local level that we’ve not been able to put the proper management in because the whole (former Tory health secretary Andrew) Lansley (Health and Social Care) Act which drives privatisation blew apart the local decision making and planning at local level in our health service.

‘And Theresa May comes out and makes an apology, a sort of perfunctory apology but doesn’t actually change her plans… Her only plan, apparently, is to promote this Health Secretary. They should be demoting this Health Secretary. If she promotes this Health Secretary tomorrow it is a betrayal of those 75 thousand people in the back of ambulances.’

Marr put to him: ‘And you also want to get rid of all private provision, don’t you, in hospitals?
‘Jeremy Corbyn has said you want to get rid of the involvement of Nuffield and these other private groups in operations inside the NHS.’

Ashworth responded: ‘Look, we’ve got a crazy situation where Virgin can win billions of pounds of contracts and when it doesn’t win a contract in Surrey can sue the NHS. It took the NHS to court and forced the NHS to settle out of court. That is money that should be going to patients, not to Virgin Care.’
 
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