The last 18 months have been incredibly challenging. Our NHS heroes have been truly exceptional in supporting local residents and saving lives. Across Barnsley, our incredible staff and volunteers adapted quickly to the challenges of the pandemic and lockdown restrictions.

Although local cancer services have continued to operate throughout the pandemic, waiting lists have lengthened. The pandemic has put enormous pressure on our hospitals and the Government have left services to struggle without offering help and support. In Barnsley, just 48.5% of patients are starting cancer treatment within 2 months of an urgent GP referral which is well below the national target. And this isn’t just happening here, we are seeing similar trends right across the country. And on top of this, the backlog of screening services is not expected to recover until March 2022 after routine screening services were paused for six months at the beginning of the pandemic.

Instead of offering vital assistance, the Government are prioritising yet another top-down NHS re-organisation, whilst our hospital here in Barnsley is still dealing with this crisis. Labour has urged the Government to focus on bringing down waiting lists instead of pursuing their reform of the NHS.

Although hospitals continue to reduce waiting times by providing additional appointment slots on evenings and weekends, funding issues are putting services in our area under tremendous strain. Early diagnosis and treatment for serious illnesses such as cancer is essential to create better outcomes for patients. To achieve this our hospitals need more resources and better funding.

Labour have called on the government to create an NHS recovery plan. We have demanded a quarterly plan from ministers on action being taken to bring down waiting lists; a rescue plan to ensure the NHS has the staff and modern equipment to deliver the cancer care, surgery and mental health care patients deserve; and a fair pay rise for NHS staff.

Hospitals should not have had to choose between Covid care and cancer care and it is now crucial that ministers provide  hospitals, our NHS staff and patients with a fully resourced rescue plan to bring waiting lists down.

Investment in our NHS is vital, we have seen first-hand the devasting impact funding cuts have had on our communities and we cannot allow this Government to continue to put our health at risk.

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