Ashworth presses Tories in NHS crisis as McCluskey calls on Hunt to quit

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Jon Ashworth and the head of Unite today piled the pressure on the Tories over the NHS crisis following the astonishing revelation that the Red Cross had been called in to help at a hospital in England.

Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, demanded Jeremy Hunt come to the Commons to provide answers after aid agency the Red Cross confirmed it was providing support and warned of an “humanitarian crisis” in the health service.

McCluskey, the general secretary of Unite, said suggested Hunt, the health secretary, was not telling the truth over the NHS’ problems and called on him to “pack his bags”.

Hunt toured broadcast studios this morning in an attempt to reinforce Theresa May’s bid to dismiss the claims of the Red Cross.

He faced severe criticism from people across the labour movement, however as:

  • Ashworth told LabourList that Hunt must make an urgent statement on the NHS in the House of Commons.
  • McCluskey issued a lengthy indictment of the Tories’ stewardship of the NHS in which he set out the daily battles facing Unite members in the health service.
  • Alastair Campbell, former media chief to Tony Blair, said the Tories had reversed the progress in the NHS under Labour, writing on Twitter: “Not true that NHS has an annual winter crisis. It did when we had a Tory govt. They stopped under Labour. Now back.”

The emergence of such significant problems in the NHS – and particularity the intervention of the Red Cross – overshadowed a speech in which May was due to warn that mental health had been “dangerously disregarded” in place of efforts to tackle physical illness.

McCluskey spoke out in bold terms and said May’s attempt to dismiss the crisis showed she was being “economic with the actualitie” over NHS funding.

“The government knows all too well that the funding for the service falls far short of what is needed to meet the challenges presented by the monstrous debts carried by hospital trusts, from an ageing population and from the pitiful absence of a reliable, decent social care service which is urgently needed to take the pressure off the frontline NHS,” McCluskey said.

“Ever since the Conservatives took power, either in coalition or in full control as they are now, Unite members have had to fight to save our NHS.  Our members working in frontline care have seen funding fall while growing, pointless bureaucracy consumes money that ought to be spent on patient care.  They are frustrated beyond measure that they are both enduring a decade of falling pay while the service too is starved of vital funds.  Patients now only have the dedication and professionalism of health professionals to place their trust in for ministers have sorely let them down.

“The final humiliation has been the need to bring in the British Red Cross to provide urgent humanitarian assistance… Hunt should be packing his bags.  It is high time he made way for someone able to support our NHS before his bungling takes our health service to a state beyond repair.”

Hunt told the BBC that “one or two” hospitals had been under extreme pressure but argued that NHS experts accepted “the vast majority of hospitals are actually coping slightly better than this time last year”.

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