United Kingdom

Sunak accused of being ‘asleep at the wheel’ over NHS crisis

Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting has accused Rishi Sunak of being “asleep at the wheel” amid the biggest crisis the NHS has seen in its 70 year history. His words come at a time when the Prime Minister has set out his stall for the year, but has been absent in his plan for the NHS.

Mr Streeting told Express.co.uk: “With A&Es in gridlock and running out of critical oxygen supplies, it’s a scandal that the Government is claiming the situation in the NHS is ‘quite normal’. Patients will never forgive them for being asleep at the wheel when the NHS is going through the biggest crisis in its history.”

He added: “Labour would tackle the root cause of the crisis by undertaking the biggest expansion of the NHS workforce in history, training the doctors and nurses we need to treat patients on time and paid for by abolishing the non-dom tax status.”

Express.co.uk also asked both Streeting and DHSC (Department of Health and Social Care) about whether the Nightingale Hospitals would be re-introduced as reports suggest some NHS bosses are considering deploying field hospitals with Sarah Whiteman, Chief Medical Director of an NHS Integrated Care Board, telling the BBC they were a “real possibility”.

Streeting said of the Nightingales: “Labour would be pulling out all the stops to deal with the crisis, but the reality is that there weren’t enough staff to run Nightingales during the pandemic, and now there are over 130,000 vacancies in the NHS.”

In response to a request for comment, a DHSC spokesperson told Express.co.uk: “We are providing additional equipment from the national ICU reserve, such as oxygen concentrators, to reduce the demand on small oxygen cylinders.

“The NHS is already maximising bed capacity with the equivalent of 7,000 additional beds, plus funding for speeding up discharge and increasing virtual wards, all to free up capacity.

“In total, we’ve announced £14.1billion additional funding over the next two years to improve urgent and emergency care and tackle the backlog – the highest spend on health and care in any Government’s history.”

While the NHS is maximising bed capacity, this doesn’t answer the question about the use of the Nightingales.

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The NHS currently has a severe staffing shortage with over 100,000 vacancies needing to be filled.

As a result, constructing these Nightingales could just stretch staff and resources further.

This comes at a time when public service bodies are engaging in wide ranging strike action, reducing staff numbers further as they bid for a fairer pay rise.

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