Theresa May must come to the House of Commons on Monday to explain how she will fix the crisis in the National Health Service, Jeremy Corbyn has said.
The Labour leader issued the call to the Prime Minister after the British Red Cross was brought in to assist with what the charity called a “humanitarian crisis” at some overstretched hospitals.
He described the situation as a “national scandal” and said Ms May and Jeremy Hunt had to take responsibility. Neither Mr Hunt nor Ms May has yet commented on the crisis, with the Health Secretary accused of “hiding” from the situation and the Department for Health referring enquires to NHS England.
British Red Cross Land Rovers have been deployed to the UK’s streets to help ferry patients home from overstretched hospitals and free up beds, after reports of deaths and patients waiting on trolleys in corridors. Figures show overstretched A&E departments shut their doors to patients more than 140 times in December, while a third of NHS trusts in England have issued alerts that they are overstretched, according to the Nuffield Trust.
Mr Corbyn said on Saturday afternoon: “The crisis in our NHS is unprecedented. People are lying on trolleys in corridors waiting to be seen. Hospitals have had to close their doors, unable to admit patients. The health service is at breaking point.
“But this crisis is not due to an outbreak of disease. It is a crisis made in Downing Street by this government – a crisis we warned them about.
“The Red Cross yesterday announced it is providing humanitarian assistance to NHS trusts that simply do not have the resources to cope.
“This is a national scandal – and Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt have to take both responsibility and urgent action to tackle it.
“I’m grateful to the Red Cross volunteers who have stepped in during this emergency, as well as the hard working NHS staff who are being let down and undermined by this government. But we should not have to rely on the Red Cross to provide the basic care the people of this country need.
“The fact is this government have repeatedly failed to put the necessary resources into our health service, while they have cut social care and wasted billions on a top-down reorganisation to accelerate privatisation. And despite finding billions of tax giveaways for big business and the richest, Theresa May’s Conservatives failed to find a single penny for the NHS in their autumn statement.
“Our NHS cannot survive if this government does not change course. Labour is calling on the government to cancel their tax breaks for the wealthiest and fund our NHS instead.
“The people of this country need an explanation for the state of emergency in our hospitals, and an account of what action will be taken to end it. The only person who can do that is the Prime Minister. So I am demanding that the Prime Minister comes to the House of Commons on Monday and sets out to the British people how she plans to fix her failure on the NHS.”
Parliament returns from its Christmas recess on Monday, the first sitting of 2017. The Prime Minister is due to give her first broadcast interview of the year on Sunday morning.
British Red Cross chief executive, Mike Adamson, said extra cash was needed to make the system sustainable, but NHS England has denied the characterisation as a humanitarian crisis.
Keith Willett, the director of acute care at the health service body, said that “on the international scale of a humanitarian crisis, I do not think the NHS is at that point”.
Mr Adamson however said extra cash was needed to make the system sustainable. “The British Red Cross is on the front line, responding to the humanitarian crisis in our hospital and ambulance services across the country,” he said.
“We have been called in to support the NHS and help get people home from hospital and free up much needed beds.”
An NHS England spokesman said: “Plans remain in place to deal with additional demands during the winter period, and the public can still play their part using local pharmacy and NHS 111 for medical advice, alongside other services.”