The following appeared as my column in the Barnsley Chronicle on 4th January:
With the festive season over, it’s a perfect time to say thank you to everyone who worked over Christmas and New Year.
Whilst many of us were spending time with friends and family, lots were busy making our lives easier and safer rather than taking a well-earned break.
And for the incredible staff working in our NHS, the work continues in earnest as the coming months are some of the hardest of the year.
Pressure on the NHS hits its peak during winter, with increasing numbers of people seeking help in our hospitals and health services.
And combined with almost a decade of austerity, cuts and underfunding under this Conservative Government since 2010, our NHS already looks to be under huge strain.
In November for instance, over 50,000 people waited more than four hours in A&E departments across the UK.
In the same month, just 87.6 per cent of patients were admitted, treated or sent home within four hours of attending A&E -; the worst November on record and well below the standard target of 95 per cent.
Here in Barnsley, thanks to the superb work of the staff results over the last few months have been outstanding.
In Barnsley Hospital, targets on emergency care and waiting times have not only been met but regularly surpassed, and staff there should be incredibly proud of their efforts.
But last winter, we saw what an impact the Government’s lack of planning and preparation can have on our local hospital.
Despite the heroic efforts of staff, A&E waiting time targets were missed, bed occupancy rates rose above safety targets, and ambulance handover delays increased as a result.
The Government must learn from this, and ensure our local health services and NHS staff are provided with the vital resources and support they depend on to help residents here in Barnsley.
Another NHS winter crisis made by Tory ministers over the coming months is simply unacceptable.