Labour’s NHS record was recently debated at Prime Minister’s Questions. (It’s a pity we can’t challenge David Cameron more – he’s only faced two PMQ sessions in eight weeks!) The PM insults NHS staff by failing to recognise the difference they made to patients through their commitment, skill and dedication – made more effective by Labour’s record investment and sensible reforms. The last Labour Government was the first in NHS history to substantially cut waiting lists (to record lows), and delivered patient satisfaction levels at all-time highs.
It’s worth remembering the state of the health service when I was elected in 1992. King’s was regularly on the Evening Standard’s front page for its routine queues of, mostly elderly patients, waiting hours, sometimes days, on trolleys in corridors.
Our ageing hospitals had suffered from years of chronic under-investment. Waiting lists were high for life threatening conditions let alone routine operations. Cancelled operations were a daily occurrence. NHS 2010 was unrecognisable from NHS 1996.
Now the Coalition are spending close to £3bn reorganising the NHS implementing a plan no-one voted for and which was opposed by much of the medical profession. We’re now seeing its impact.
The Department of Health has now transferred responsibility for the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) to the NHS Commissioning Board meaning authority for decisions on which drugs and treatments are reimbursed has moved from a regional to national level. Selective internal radiation therapy (SIRT), used to treat forms of liver cancer, has been removed from the CDF without alternative national funding mechanisms in place. As well as being the regional centre for SIR-Spheres, King’s is one of the UK’s leading liver centres with an international reputation – pioneering treatment where surgery isn’t possible.
This is a worrying development for cancer patients and those needing SIRT in particular. The removal of SIRT from the approved drugs list means new cancer patients requiring such treatment will have to make a case for exceptional funding. This will incur delays and result in a postcode lottery.
Harriet Harman and I will do all we can to ensure these delays do not cost lives. Many worked so hard together for a world class NHS locally. Now we must work together to make sure we do not lose that hard won progress.