Healthcare unions have contested British Prime Minister Theresa May’s attempt at reassuring the public that the publicly funded National Health Service (NHS) is at record funding levels. Instead, the unions suggested that May is in denial of the situation.
May on Sunday rejected warnings issued by the British Red Cross Chief Executive Mike Adamson on Friday that suggested that the NHS is facing a “humanitarian crisis.” Teams from the medical charity Red Cross were reportedly deployed in the East Midlands region to alleviate the escalating operational pressures in the hospitals in Britain.
"We call on the UK government to allocate immediate funding to stabilise the current system and set out plans towards creating a sustainable funding settlement for the future," Adamson said in a statement.
However, in her first televised interview this year, with Sky News on Sunday, May acknowledged that there is an escalation of operational pressure but countered the claims by suggesting that the funding was "now at record levels for the NHS." The prime minister also expressed disagreement with the characterization of the situation by Red Cross.
“We have an ageing population, this brings pressures, particularly in the interface between the health service and social care…We have taken some immediate steps in relation to that issue but we are also looking to ensure best practice in the NHS and looking for a long-term solution to what has been a problem that has been ducked by government over the years,” May told Sky News.
May’s comments were questioned by domain experts such as Mark Porter, council chair of the British Medical Association; Rehana Azam, head of public services at GMB, the largest union in the ambulance services; and Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, the U.K.'s biggest union, the Independent reported.
“Despite Theresa May’s claims that funding for the NHS is at record levels, the Red Cross intervention comes at a time when hospital beds have hit a record low, demand on the system is at a record high and general practice is struggling to cope with rising patient numbers. ... Given that the NHS was facing the worst winter on record, the unacceptable absence of additional funding for health and social care in the Autumn Statement has only further exacerbated the crisis,” Porter said.
“We have seen no signs from the Prime Minister since taking office that she understands the gravity of the situation the NHS is facing,” continued Porter. “The proportion of national income invested in healthcare in this country is lower than other leading nations and the government’s refusal to fill the black hole in NHS finances, as evidenced with lack of additional funding in the Autumn Statement, is betraying a population growing more anxious about an uncertain future.” Porter added that May could not “continue to bury her head in the sand” as the situation worsened.
May’s statements on the issue also come after reports emerged Friday that alleged that two patients died while waiting on trolleys for treatment at the Worcestershire Royal hospital. Although investigations are ongoing, the reports also claimed that a third individual was found hanged at the same hospital.