NHS has never had more cash than it does now and ailing £150billion-a-year service’s problems are down to UK’s ‘ill health as a nation’, senior Tory MP says

  • Hospitals are buckling under demand, soaring rates of flu and staff shortages 
  • A Tory MP said NHS is being given ‘vast sums’ and has ‘never had more cash’
  • Steve Brine blamed delays for care on the UK’s ‘ill health as a nation’

NHS hospitals are in crisis-mode because of ‘structural’ problems and Britons’ poor health, a Tory MP claimed today.

Hospitals are buckling under winter demand, soaring rates of flu and bed-blockers. Covid’s resurgence and the emergence of the XBB.1.5 ‘Kraken’ variant are expected to cause even more chaos. 

A&E patients have waited up to four days for a bed. Others are treated in cupboards, corridors, meeting rooms and even outside hospitals.

Steve Brine, chair of the Health Select Committee, argued the £150billion/year NHS has ‘never had more cash’ and that it did not need extra funding.

He blamed the NHS’s issues on the UK’s ‘ill health as a nation’, along with exhausted staff, the twindemic of Covid and flu and record demand.

The NHS spends around £150billion-a-year, of which just under 43 per cent is spent on staff wages. Graphic shows: A pie chart of Department of Health and Social Care revenue spending on the NHS (left) in 2019/20 and areas where expenditure is seen to have been wasted (right)

HM Treasury data shows the NHS annual budget. In 2020/21, the NHS was given £129.7billion of core funding for its usual services, which was topped up with an extra £18billion to help with the pressures from the pandemic. For 2021/22 the Treasury said the health service received £136.1billion pounds of core funding, as well as £3billion to help with the Covid recovery. The health service has been allocated £151.8billion for 2022/23 and £157.4billion for 2023/34. The Autumn Statement topped up these figures by £3.3billion each

Mr Brine, MP for Winchester, told Times Radio: ‘We spend £152billion in England on the NHS every year, what should we spend, £300billion? £352 billion?

‘And then you come down to the point of well how are you going to pay for that? And are the public prepared to pay for that? 

‘Because look back to… Liz Truss, look what happens when you make unfunded spending commitments in Government.

‘The markets don’t like that so much and then that has all sorts of horrible impacts on people’s mortgages, etc.

‘I think [the Government] have been absolutely honest. I think they are giving the NHS vast, vast sums. It’s never had more public money than it has right now.’

HM Treasury data shows that the NHS is set to receive £151.8billion for 2022/23 and £157.4billion in the following year. 

For comparison, the NHS was allocated £129.7billion during the first year of the pandemic, which was topped up with an extra £18billion to help with Covid pressures.

Mr Brine said the NHS is in a ‘very serious situation and it is every single winter’. 

He admitted the crisis in care, which has seen health chiefs consider using ‘field hospitals’ with tents to cope with the ‘unprecedented’ demand, is ‘worse than last year’.

The MP blamed the situation, in part, on staff struggling to go the ‘extra mile’ because they are ‘exhausted’ and ‘burnt-out’ following the pandemic.

The twindemic is also to blame, with fears about a surge in both Covid and flu admissions being ‘realised’, he said.

Nearly 3,800 flu patients were in hospital each day last week, on average — up seven-fold in one month. And around 8,600 Covid patients were taking up beds on December 21, up 84 per cent on last month. Health chiefs warned today that flu and Covid cases are expected to keep rising throughout January. 

On top of this, demand for care is so ‘phenomenal’ and ‘through the roof’ that the NHS ‘can’t keep up’, Mr Brine said.

He said the Government had to be ‘honest’ about the problems facing the NHS because they are ‘structural’ and ‘about our ill health as a nation’.

The flu-nami has swept across the NHS in England, the latest round of health service data shows, with over 3,800 admissions for the virus on December 23. Graph shows the number of beds on wards taken up by those with flu (red) and the number of beds occupied due to the virus in critical care (blue) 

The number of people infected with Covid taking up beds in wards across England soared above 8,600 on December 21, the latest data available shows. The figure has jumped 29 per cent in a week

NHS England data today showed that an average of 63,000 staff were off work every day in the week to Christmas (red line). Around 8,000 of the absences were due to Covid (blue line)

Ambulance handover delays peaked on December 19 with more than 3,000 patients forced to wait over an hour in the back of an emergency vehicle unable to be offloaded to a hospital bed

Shadow health minister refuses to endorse boss Wes Streeting’s call for NHS reform 

A Labour MP today dodged questions on whether she supported the party’s stance that the NHS must be reformed.

Last month, Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting insisted the NHS must ‘reform or die’, calling for more staff, greater use of the private sector and faster diagnoses.

But when asked whether she backed the stance today, Shadow Mental Health Minister Dr Rosena Allin-Khan refused to support Mr Streeting’s comments.

Dr Allin-Khan, who is also an A&E medic, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘What we have is a plan to tackle the workforce issue which is what I stand by.

‘Labour have a plan to historically grow the workforce.’ 

Asked about using the private sector, a plan backed by Mr Streeting, Dr Allin-Khan said: ‘In my own brief in mental health we have use of the private sector, which ultimately often lets patients down.

‘This is about putting patient care first. Labour have a plan to grow the workforce.’ 

Discussing the crisis in the NHS, she said: ‘I’ve been an emergency doctor for 17 years and this is the worst I have ever seen our NHS, which is a sentiment shared by most of my colleagues.’

Asked a number of times on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme if providing more staff to the NHS should be accompanied by better standards for patients, Dr Allin-Khan said: ‘People are being treated in the most undignified of ways. Of course things need to be improved for patients.

‘But that is currently at the hands of the Government and they are failing to do that… we have a Prime Minister that is missing in action.’

She added: ‘For Stephen Barclay and Rishi Sunak to blame the pandemic and the flu crisis on the issue, we actually had in January 2020, just one A&E across the country met the four-hour waiting target.’ 

The Health Select Committee will launch a ‘major piece of work’ this year on preventing illness, as the health service will be ‘unsustainable’ unless Britons get healthier, which is a ‘terrifying situation’, Mr Brine added.

The NHS crisis has seen patients face record delays in A&E this winter, with some reporting waits of up to four days for a bed, while others are treated in cupboards, corridors, meeting rooms and even outside hospitals. 

Doctors have described ‘Dickensian overcrowding’ in emergency departments, with some staff being forced to ask seriously ill patients to monitor their own vital signs. 

Last week, a fifth ambulance patients in England waited more than an hour to be handed over to A&E teams. 

In a bid to boost ‘atrocious’ response times, London Ambulance Service yesterday ordered its teams to leave 999 patients in chairs or trolleys so they can respond to incoming 999 calls, raising patient safety fears among some medics.

Experts have called for the reopening of Nightingale hospitals, which are staffed by the army and built during the pandemic but saw little use, to prop up the ailing health service.  

NHS chiefs have warned the crisis could continue until Easter. 

The health service has blamed ongoing pressures in part on workforce shortages, with 130,000 vacancies across its entire workforce. On top of this, staff absences are on the rise.

Further adding to the crisis is the fact that 12,000 hospital beds were taken up by ‘bed-blockers’ in the last week, along with rising Covid and flu admissions.

Demand for A&E has also skyrocketed because of difficulties accessing GPs. One in five patients unable to get an in-person appointment in December turned up at hospitals instead, according to polling by the Liberal Democrats. 

On top of these pressures, experts have warned that the Omicron sub-variant XBB.1.5 is set to pile further demand on the health service.

The strain has gained mutations which helps it to bypass Covid-fighting antibodies generated in response to vaccination or previous infection. 

In other health news…

‘We can’t do this EVERY winter’: Fury over Government plans to bring back Covid-era measures to avoid full-blown NHS meltdown – as zealots demand masks in public, WFH by default and return of social distancing 

‘I’m in charge of curing the NHS now’: Rishi Sunak unveils blueprint to help tackle the crisis in UK hospitals – in the first major speech of his premiership

Pharmacists ‘to treat more illnesses’ as the government considers handing them greater powers to ease the pressure on waiting times for GPs and A&E  

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