LOCAL MP Dr Sarah Wollaston, chair of the Health Select Committee, has this week been taking the Government to task over the NHS crisis currently facing UK hospitals.

Dr Wollaston wrote an article for the British Medical Journal, calling the Government’s response to the crisis ‘dismal’.

She said: ‘Over the last parliament, funding for the NHS increased annually by an average of just 1.1 per cent, far below the actual increase in costs or the long term average of around 3.8 per cent since 1978-79.

‘The real terms increase in Department of Health spending for the current review period is just £4.5bn and will result in reduced spending per person.

‘The accompanying cuts to social care combined with a serious workforce shortfall have left more than a million older people going without the personal care that they need to live with dignity in their own homes.

‘It is no surprise that so many are ending up in more expensive settings in an already overstretched NHS.’

Our local Derriford Hospital is currently under extreme pressure, only downgrading their alert level on Friday, January 6, from OPEL Status 4 ‘unable to cope with demand’ to Status 3. At OPEL Status 3 they are still ‘operationally challenged’.

More than a third of hospitals issued an alert and the British Red Cross has stepped in to help at 20 A and E departments, with their CEO calling the current situation in the NHS a ‘humanitarian crisis’.

The Red Cross is currently assisting Derriford Hospital by boosting its Support at Home service, which is ‘helping to arrange transport for discharged patients and ensuring those patients are settled back into their homes by trained volunteers’ according the Derriford’s website.

This comes as it was reported that two patients in Worcestershire died waiting for treatment between New Year’s Day and January 3.

According to the BBC, a woman died of a heart attack after waiting on a trolley in a corridor for 35 hours and a man suffered an aneurysm after a long wait on a trolley.

Dr Wollaston continued: ‘There has been a failure to grasp the scale of the financial challenge facing both health and social care and the consequences and inefficiency of their continuing separation.

‘A serious shortfall in capital, as a result of ongoing raids to plug deficits, is undermining the prospects for the transformational changes necessary to produce future savings.

‘The public has repeatedly made clear the value it places on our NHS and that it wants to see it properly funded. The financial challenge of providing sufficient funding for health and social care to cope with inexorably rising demand will be the same for whichever party is in power over the coming decades.

‘It is in all our interests for them to work together to agree a way forward compatible with the founding principles of the NHS.

‘The most remembered statistic of the EU referendum campaign was the £350m a week for the NHS - a cynically deployed and rapidly disavowed non-fact for which no one can be held to account.’

Many people, including Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham, have accused the Conservative Government and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt of cutting funding from the NHS in order to push through further privatisation of the health service.

Mr Burnham said Mr Hunt has been on a ‘mission to run down the National Health Service’ to serve ‘a privatisation agenda’ that will lead to the end of free, universal health care in the UK, in an interview with The Independent.

Jeremy Hunt however has said that the issues amounted to just ‘a few serious problems’ affecting no more than ‘one or two hospitals’, despite this being contradicted by the CEO of the British Red Cross, the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, the boss of the English health charity the King’s Fund, the chief executive of Colchester and Ipswich hospital trusts, the chief executive of The Patents Association and the advocacy group Patient Concern.

Meanwhile, analysis by the Labour Party found that the cost of corporation tax cuts under the Conservative Government will be worth £15billion by 2021. The equivalent of employing 10,000 teachers, 10,000 police officers and 12,000 nurses, full-time, every year for a decade.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said: ‘Labour is calling on the government to reverse these deeply unfair tax giveaways and start properly investing in our vital public services.’