Kerry McCarthy Labour MP for Bristol East
Kerry writes for Fishponds Voice, 1st February 2023
2022 was nothing if not eventful, with the cost-of-living crisis, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and 10 Downing Street’s revolving door all dominating headlines. But as we look back on a tumultuous year and forward to 2023, the ongoing NHS crisis remains the issue on everyone’s minds.
The extreme and unprecedented pressures on Bristol’s emergency services this winter have led both of Bristol’s major hospitals and its ambulance trust to declare critical incidents this December. Meanwhile patients needing routine care battle through 8am call queues for their lucky chance at getting a GP appointment, and many have given up on seeing an NHS dentist at all. Our NHS is not only on its knees, but on its face.
One constituent in Fishponds recently wrote to me in a state of shock. The ambulance she called for her husband, a dementia patient, when he was taken unwell took three hours to arrive. Medics apologised for ‘treating him out of the back of a truck,’ where he remained for the next ten hours because A&E didn’t have room for him. Another constituent waited two hours for an ambulance while suffering a heart attack at his GP surgery. When it became clear the ambulance wasn’t coming, doctors made the life-saving decision to drive him to hospital instead.
In Parliament I’ve raised concerns that constituents who call an ambulance in their hour of need can no longer expect one to arrive. These testimonies are among the most alarming I’ve heard in my time as an MP but they’re sadly the tip of the iceberg. People are losing their lives as problems that have undermined our NHS for years have now come to a head.
This NHS emergency is far from an accident – services have been starved of Government funding for over a decade. I certainly don’t doubt efforts among Bristol’s healthcare teams to prepare for the worst winter ever anticipated, though little can be done locally to fix national shortages of 47,406 nurses and 9,053 doctors. And while the Government incinerated £4bn of unusable PPE last year, overworked staff have similarly been left feeling burnt out after the pandemic, with many leaving the sector entirely.
Early signs are showing that in Bristol, things are beginning to look up. But it’s unsustainable for our NHS to lurch from crisis to crisis every single winter. When we consider its future ahead of next year’s General Election, voters face a crossroads. Time will tell whether they pick the path towards privatisation, where striking staff are sacked, or choose a better future where our NHS is properly funded and workers are rewarded with the fair pay they deserve.
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