Hilary Benn - Member of Parliament for Leeds Central
The NHS is one of the best things about our country and I am committed to upholding the its founding principle of universal healthcare provided free at the point of use: a comprehensive, integrated and public NHS that is there for all of us when we need it.
NHS spending on private sector providers has more than doubled in cash terms since 2010. I am concerned that the Health and Social Care Act 2012 has created a fragmented and wasteful system and has allowed a situation where NHS expenditure on private health providers now stands at £9 billion.
Healthcare should be delivered through partnership and planning rather than a market-based system. At the last general election I stood on a manifesto which pledged to reverse the Health and Social Care Act, reinstate the duty on the Health and Social Care Secretary to provide universal care, end privatisation and fragmentation and move towards genuine integration, planning and partnership, publicly administered and provided.
More widely, I share concerns about the sustained underfunding of our NHS. Eight years of cuts, privatisation and the biggest financial squeeze in its history have pushed our health service to the brink and it is patients who are paying the price. This winter was the worst on record: waiting lists topped four million, more than 84,000 patients had their operation cancelled on the day and 2.8 million people waited more than four hours in A&E.
The Government’s recent announcement that it will increase expenditure on the NHS by an average of 3.4% annually over the next five years, while welcome, represents little more than a standstill. It is less than what experts have been calling for and it is insufficient to deliver the much-needed improvements in care. Ministers also refused to announce any extra funding for social care, capital spending and public health.
I will continue to press the Government to bring forward a long-term plan for the NHS and social care sector, to end privatisation, reverse the Health and Social Care Act and ensure that the NHS remains free and accessible to all.