Ed Miliband warns of NHS “financial bombshell”

ED MILIBAND will warn of a “financial bombshell” that means most English hospitals face having to cut staff, beds and services this year as the election campaign enters the final 48 hours.

Labour leader Ed Miliband is warning of a "cash crisis made in Downing Street." Picture: John Devlin
Labour leader Ed Miliband is warning of a "cash crisis made in Downing Street." Picture: John Devlin

A “cash crisis made in Downing Street” is putting severe strain on the NHS and will mean major budget cuts in the coming months, the opposition leader has claimed.

Leaked documents indicated two-thirds of trusts are expected to be in the red by the close of the financial year, according to Labour.

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Mr Miliband said: “Britain faces a clear choice on Thursday: between a Labour government that will put working people first - or a Tory government that will only ever work for the privileged few.

“There is no bigger choice at this election for everyone in our country than the future facing our National Health Service.

“Right now, our NHS is in grave danger because David Cameron has broken his promises on the NHS.

“He’s closed hospitals he said he would keep open, he’s allowed waiting times to rise when he said he would keep them low and he’s wasted £3 billion on a top-down re-organisation which drives forward privatisation that he insisted before the last election would never happen.

“Now he’s at it again, promising to protect the NHS with just a flimsy IOU. And today we discover the financial bombshell that he has kept hidden from everyone until now.

“Two-thirds of hospitals face having to make swingeing cuts, not some point in the future, but this year because of a cash crisis made in Downing Street.

“That will mean staff cut, beds lost and services closed. It is why we need Labour’s better plan for the NHS: a fully-funded plan to get more resources into the NHS and start turning things around; a real plan with real money for real action right now.

“It is a plan that is founded on putting the right values back at the heart of our NHS: care, compassion and co-operation, not privatisation, fragmentation and competition; an NHS with people at its heart; an NHS that inspires the country; an NHS that will once again lead the world.

“This is what we’re fighting for. This is what’s on the ballot paper in less than 48 hours’ time. Let’s go out there and build a better future together.”

Labour analysis of leaked documents produced by NHS Providers, which represents trusts across the hospital, ambulance and mental health sector, show financial forecasts for 98 trusts projects their combined deficit this year will reach £759 million - up from £250 million for the last financial year.

The party claims that equates to £1.86 billion across England’s 240 trusts.

Labour has devoted more time during its election campaign to the NHS than any other subject as it seeks to win over wavering voters with pledges to boost the number of doctor, nurses and midwives, improve cancer care and put money into the service.

But it has refused to meet pledges made by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to pump in the £8 billion health chiefs say it needs by 2020 and has accused the Tories of making the funding commitment with an IOU.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said: “David Cameron promised to cut the deficit, not the NHS. But we now know that, in reality, he has created a large deficit in the NHS.

“The financial crisis in the NHS is biting this year, with patients seeing treatments rationed, services closed and hospitals without enough staff

“Labour’s first Budget will bring in a mansion tax to get the funds flowing into the NHS this year and next. The Tories’ extreme spending plans will put the NHS at risk.

“Hospitals were forced to spend £1 billion on agency staff last year because of the shortage of nurses under David Cameron.

“Only Labour’s plan to recruit an extra 20,000 nurses - paid for with £2.5 billion extra a year - will allow hospitals to break the hold of the staffing agencies and get their finances into better shape.”

Responding to Mr Miliband’s claims, a Conservative spokesman said: “NHS providers say hospital deficits have been caused partly by the decision to hire more staff to avoid a repeat of Mid Staffs and other hospital tragedies that happened under the last Labour government.

“Yet today, for the second election in a row, Labour is refusing to give the NHS the budget it is asking for, unlike the Conservatives, who have committed to the full £8 billion.

“Without that support Labour are once again risking a repeat of the very tragedies that scarred the NHS when they were last in charge.”