Julie Elliott MP: There is a limit to how much our NHS staff can do

Staff at Sunderland Royal slept at the hospital between shifts during the recent snow storms to ensure vital patient care continued.
Staff at Sunderland Royal slept at the hospital between shifts during the recent snow storms to ensure vital patient care continued.
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The NHS is in crisis and Sunderland is doing its best to cope – but there’s a limit to what the excellent staff can do.

This week I obtained official Government statistics which reveal that the number of full-time equivalent GPs in the city has plummeted in the past few years.

Indeed, not only did overall numbers drop by 25% between 2013 and 2016, but almost 20 were lost just between March 2016 and December 2017.

Fewer than 140 now remain to serve Sunderland’s growing population of 280,000-plus.

At the same time, a record number of people – 8,785 – sought help at the city’s A&E department in December 2017, with a further 8,106 in January 2018 and 7,334 in February.

Our dedicated and hard-working NHS staff are doing their absolute best in a difficult situation, but they are hamstrung by a continued lack of support from the Conservatives.

Indeed, during the worst of the recent winter flu season – when hospitals and GPs nationwide were inundated with record patient numbers seeking care – Theresa May actually denied there was a crisis.

The Government doesn’t seem to care.

Just this week, in fact, Chancellor Philip Hammond unveiled upgraded projections for growth in his Spring Statement, yet he offered little hope for extra NHS cash any time soon.

This is not good enough. The NHS needs proper funding so that it can deliver the vital services we all depend on – not just in winter, but all year round.

I am regularly contacted by constituents who face cuts to treatment, drugs being withdrawn due to cost or lengthy waits for mental health appointments.

All these patients are being let down.

Just a few weeks ago, when severe snow hit Sunderland, many of the amazing staff at Sunderland Royal slept at the hospital between shifts to ensure vital patient care continued.

It is time that the Government followed the example of these dedicated men and women and put the NHS at the forefront of their actions. It is time they tackled this funding crisis.

Please rest assured that I will continue to fight for the future of our NHS, as well as social care services, at every opportunity – both at home here in Sunderland and at Westminster.