Ambulance waiting times is a national scandal says Bath MP

Extensive ambulance waiting times is putting residents in grave danger says Bath MP Wera Hobhouse, who has raised her concerns with the government.

This comes weeks after weeks after there were calls for an inquiry in the southwest into hospital delays. 

She has heard that recently, an elderly man in Bath was forced to sleep on the floor of a church as it took 12 hours for an ambulance to arrive.

The Liberal Democrats say they have been sounding the alarm for months, calling for an urgent investigation into England’s ambulance services and a review of ambulance station closures. But the Conservative government keeps turning a blind eye to this disaster. 

This includes urgent investment in A&E departments and a new Community Ambulance Fund, as well as a review of ambulance station closures in the region. 

Wera Hobhouse MP said:

“For too long the Conservative Government has ignored this crisis. It is putting patients in danger and cannot continue. 

“A member of my team has stories of their neighbour waiting over 20 hours for an ambulance to attend. This is a national scandal. This issue is spiraling out of control and it’s simply not good enough that Johnson and his Government are turning a blind eye. Ignoring this crisis won’t stop the heartbreaking stories we hear every day of people stranded for hours on end for help that too often comes too late.”

“Patients and families across the South West deserve better than waiting in pain and distress, or even worse, losing loved ones. After years of driving the NHS into the ground, the Conservatives need to finally wake up to this life-threatening crisis, make a plan and deliver it to turn this situation around.”

For your further information:

  1. A transcript of the exchange between the MP and the Health Secretary is given below 
  2. The inquiry into the southwest hospital delays was reported here

Wera Hobhouse MP 

Twenty-hour ambulance waiting time—is that world-beating?

Said David, Health Secretary 

Of course, it is not. I will come on to that in a moment. The Hon. Lady knows full well why the NHS is facing its most challenging time in history.

Being the best place in which to grow up and grow old relies on keeping people safe, including from disease. We rose to the challenges of the pandemic. Brexit gave us the mindset to license and deploy a vaccine against covid-19 quicker than any other country. The phenomenal NHS got jabs into every part of the UK, and it is the wisdom of the British people that has meant that we have one of the highest vaccination rates anywhere in the world. We created a juggernaut of a testing and surveillance system. We bought more antivirals per head than any other country in Europe, and we got it right on omicron, with the most successful booster programme in Europe. As a result of all that, we were the first country in Europe to remove all restrictions. Had we listened to the Labour party, we would have been shackled to the EU on vaccines, and our schools would have been shuttered for even longer, contrary to what the hon. Member for Houghton and Sunderland South (Bridget Phillipson) said. Instead, because this Government got the big calls right, we are leading the world when it comes to living with covid.

From clinics to classrooms, the pandemic showed the wealth of our skills. The skills mission is a job for the whole of Government. In his opening speech, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education outlined our ambitions for the new Schools Bill to deliver a stronger schools system that works for every child, as talked about today by my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner (David Simmonds) when he spoke about academy trusts, and by my hon. Friend the Member for Truro and Falmouth (Cherilyn Mackrory) when she talked about the importance of early years.

We are also delivering a Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill, which will reverse the chilling effect of no platforming in our world-class institutions, while our higher education reform Bill promises to bring about a fairer and more sustainable future. I listened carefully when my hon. Friend the Member for North West Leicestershire (Andrew Bridgen) talked passionately about putting our children and our young people first.

A skills-rich economy is about more than just the elite institutions. I am the product of Filton Technical College. It ignited my desire to go to university and helped me get to where I am today. This is a Government who treat further education colleges with the seriousness that they deserve. When I was Chancellor I was proud to put an additional £400 million into further education in this country. This is a great country in which to grow up and grow old, and a great country in which to stay skilled, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Bexleyheath and Crayford (Sir David Evennett) said earlier in the debate.

On healthcare, this Government passionately believe in the NHS and its founding principles, in a world-class healthcare system that is free at the point of access for everyone. Funding from the levy, which the Labour party voted against, on top of the historic long-term NHS settlement that was announced in 2018, means that the NHS resource budget in England will increase to £162.6 billion by 2024-25. That is the highest budget that the NHS has ever had, and it includes an additional £8 billion over the next three years to tackle those covid backlogs. In a fast-changing world, with an ageing population, we need to embrace new ways of thinking. A number of my hon. Friends referred to the investment that we are making, including my hon. Friend the Member for Bosworth (Dr Evans). I also listened carefully, when my hon. Friend the Member for North West Norfolk (James Wild) was talking about NHS investment. He made a powerful case for it.

We have set out our plans to tackle the covid-19 backlogs, we have legislated for a new Health and Care Act, and we have published an integration White Paper. We have an upcoming digital and data strategy, and we are setting out a new 10-year cancer plan. I cannot see him in the Chamber now, but the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron) talked about the importance of cancer care. We are also setting out a new 10-year plan to improve mental health.

A number of Members rightly spoke of the importance of mental health, including my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Rob Butler), who speaks with passion on this subject, especially when it comes to the mental health of children. We will soon publish a health disparities White Paper, which I hope will be welcomed by the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Dame Diana Johnson), who rightly spoke of the importance of levelling up, and we will also soon publish the outcome of the Messenger review of health and social care leadership. We are bringing the Mental Health Act 1983 into the 21st century—the Queen’s Speech referred to draft legislation for that purpose—ensuring that those experiencing a mental health crisis are treated as people, not patients.

As I have said, a number of Members spoke passionately about mental health—notably the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mrs Hamilton), whom I welcome to her place in the Chamber. I agreed with one thing 

that the hon. Member for Ilford North said earlier: all Members, on both sides of the House, miss her predecessor, Jack Dromey, very much, but I know that had he listened to the hon. Lady’s speech he would have been very proud of what she said. She spoke with passion and pride about her community, and I know that she served for many years—for over two decades—In the NHS. When she speaks about mental health, she speaks with experience, and I know that she will have much of value to say in the House in the years ahead.

Many other colleagues made important contributions about the NHS. My hon. Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Dr Johnson) talked about the investment in community diagnostic centres. The hon. Member for Bradford South (Judith Cummins) and my hon. Friend the Member for North Devon (Selaine Saxby) talked about the importance of dentistry and the need to maintain investment.

At the heart of our strategy for the NHS are prevention, personalisation, performance and people. Prevention means focusing much more on the biggest killers: tobacco, obesity and alcohol. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Jo Gideon) spoke of the importance of continuing to tackle obesity. Personalisation means making use, where we can, of community services, something that I know my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Danny Kruger) would welcome; and when it comes to people, there are more doctors and nurses working in the NHS today than ever before. We are on track to deliver 50,000 more nurses by the end of this Parliament, and we have a record number of medical students in England. The fact is that the Opposition have no plans for the NHS. They voted against our plan to secure resources for the NHS, and they have no idea how to meet the challenges of the future.

We are also transforming the provision of adult social care. We are investing an additional £5.4 billion over the next three years; we are introducing a more generous means-testing system by more than quadrupling the upper savings threshold to £100,000; we are protecting more people from the lottery of catastrophic care costs; and we are putting half a billion pounds behind our 

social care workforce. I hope the hon. Member for St Helens South and Whiston (Ms Rimmer) will welcome that. She talked about adult social care, and I hope that she and others will recognise that this is record investment. These changes matter, because whether we are growing old or working-age adult, social care is there for all of us. My hon. Friend the Member for High Peak (Robert Largan) talked about that as well