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Shadow health secretary claims government not negotiating with nurses to make them


Streeting claims ministers not stopping health strikes because they expect ‘patients to suffer this winter’ anyway

MPs are currently debating a Labour motion on the NHS workforce. Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, opened for the opposition and he said the NHS was facing “the worst crisis in its history”. He said:

Seven million people are waiting for NHS treatment and they are waiting longer than ever before. 400,000 patients have been waiting more than a year.

Heart attack and stroke patients are waiting an hour for an ambulance on average when every minute matters. 24 hours in A&E isn’t just a TV programme, it is the grim reality facing patients in an emergency.

Behind those statistics, people are being held back from living their lives, people forced to give up work because they can’t stand the pain.

Young people still bearing the scars of lockdown unable to get the mental health support they need to step into adulthood. Families losing loves for no other reason than the NHS was unable to treat them in time.

It [the NHS] has now fallen over. For the first time in the history of the NHS, people no longer feel certain when they phone 999 or arrive in A&E that they will be seen in time. It’s the first time in our country’s history that people have not felt confident that emergency medicine will be there for them when they need it.

The government … sent the NHS into the pandemic with 100,000 staff shortages. They spent a decade disarming the NHS before sending it into the biggest fight it’s ever faced.

Streeting also claimed that the government was allowing the NHS strikes to go ahead this winter, instead of negotiating a settlement, because that would provide an excuse for wider failures with the service. He told the Commons

Why on earth are they not sitting round the table and conducting serious negotiations?

I will tell you why – they know that patients are going to suffer this winter, they don’t have a plan to fix it, so instead of acting to improve care for patients and accept responsibility, they want to use nurses as a scapegoat in the hope that they avoid the blame.

We can see it coming a mile off. It is a disgusting plan. It is dangerous. And it won’t work. And if I’m wrong, perhaps members opposite could explain why the government is not trying to prevent the strikes from going ahead.

In response, Steve Barclay, the health secretary, said Wales, where Labour is in government, showed why the party could not be trusted on health. He said:

[Streeting] said they have a plan in government. Well let’s look at that plan. More than a fifth of the entire population of Wales are waiting for planned care. Sixty thousand in Wales are waiting over two years. So we can see exactly what their plan in government delivers.

Rayner says a company was 10 times more likely to get a contract if it was in the VIP lane.

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She says one in five of the emergency contracts handed out for PPE have been flagged for corruption.

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And she says contracts worth £3.5bn were handed out to people with Tory contracts.

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She says the public deserve answers as to whether the “dodgy lobbying” at the heart of this scandal led to vast amounts of taxpayers’ money being wasted.

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In the Lords Tory peers recently voted against an amendment that would prevent a repeat of the use of a VIP lane for government procurement.

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MPs must decide if they will act to prevent a repeat. Addressing Tory MPs, she says:

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Learn your lesson. Don’t let this shameful episode be repeated.

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In the Commons, MPs are voting on the Labour motion calling for non-dom tax status to be ended, with the money raised being used to expand the NHS workforce. After the result is announced, they will move on to the next debate, on the Labour motion calling for papers relating to the awarding of PPE contracts to PPE Medpro, the firm reportedly linked to the the Tory peer Lady Mone (although she has denied this in the past).

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Here is my colleague David Conn’s recent story about Mone and her family making £29m from PPE Medpro.

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And here is the text of the Labour motion.

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That this house –

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(a) notes that the Department for Health and Social Care purchased more than £12bn of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in 2020-21;

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(b) regrets that the government has now written £8.7bn off the value of this £12bn, including £4bn that was spent on PPE which did not meet NHS standards and was unusable;

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(c) is extremely concerned that the government’s high priority lane for procurement during the pandemic appears to have resulted in contracts being awarded without due diligence and wasted taxpayer money;

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(d) considers there should be examination of the process by which contracts were awarded through the high priority lane; and

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(e) accordingly resolves that an humble address be presented to His Majesty, that he will be graciously pleased to give direction that all papers, advice and correspondence involving ministers and special advisers, including submissions and electronic communications, relating to the government contracts for garments for biological or chemical protection, awarded to PPE Medpro by the Department for Health and Social Care, references CF-0029900D0O000000rwimUAA1 and 547578, be provided to the committee of public accounts

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MPs are currently debating a Labour motion on the NHS workforce. Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, opened for the opposition and he said the NHS was facing “the worst crisis in its history”. He said:

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Seven million people are waiting for NHS treatment and they are waiting longer than ever before. 400,000 patients have been waiting more than a year.

n

Heart attack and stroke patients are waiting an hour for an ambulance on average when every minute matters. 24 hours in A&E isn’t just a TV programme, it is the grim reality facing patients in an emergency.

n

Behind those statistics, people are being held back from living their lives, people forced to give up work because they can’t stand the pain.

n

Young people still bearing the scars of lockdown unable to get the mental health support they need to step into adulthood. Families losing loves for no other reason than the NHS was unable to treat them in time.

n

It [the NHS] has now fallen over. For the first time in the history of the NHS, people no longer feel certain when they phone 999 or arrive in A&E that they will be seen in time. It’s the first time in our country’s history that people have not felt confident that emergency medicine will be there for them when they need it.

n

The government … sent the NHS into the pandemic with 100,000 staff shortages. They spent a decade disarming the NHS before sending it into the biggest fight it’s ever faced.

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Streeting also claimed that the government was allowing the NHS strikes to go ahead this winter, instead of negotiating a settlement, because that would provide an excuse for wider failures with the service. He told the Commons

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n

Why on earth are they not sitting round the table and conducting serious negotiations?

n

I will tell you why – they know that patients are going to suffer this winter, they don’t have a plan to fix it, so instead of acting to improve care for patients and accept responsibility, they want to use nurses as a scapegoat in the hope that they avoid the blame.

n

We can see it coming a mile off. It is a disgusting plan. It is dangerous. And it won’t work. And if I’m wrong, perhaps members opposite could explain why the government is not trying to prevent the strikes from going ahead.

n

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In response, Steve Barclay, the health secretary, said Wales, where Labour is in government, showed why the party could not be trusted on health. He said:

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[Streeting] said they have a plan in government. Well let’s look at that plan. More than a fifth of the entire population of Wales are waiting for planned care. Sixty thousand in Wales are waiting over two years. So we can see exactly what their plan in government delivers.

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The Unison union says its members are going to go on strike at five ambulance trusts in England on Wednesday 21 December. The Unison staff will take action in London, Yorkshire, the north-west, the north-east and the south-west, and the strike will last from midday to midnight.

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Ambulance staff who belong to Unite and the GMB are also on strike the same day.

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Unison members working as nurses, porters, healthcare assistants, cleaners at two Liverpool hospitals – the Liverpool Heart and Chest hospital and Liverpool university hospital – will also hold a 24-hour strike starting at 7.30am on Wednesday 21 December.

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Unison also says it is reballoting 13,000 NHS staff from 10 trusts and ambulance services – including the five ambulances services in England where Unison staff are not striking on 21 December – because in the original ballot the turnout was just below the 50% threshold required by law.

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In a statement, Sara Gorton, Unison’s head of health, said:

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Ambulance staff and their health colleagues don’t want to inconvenience anyone. But ministers are refusing to do the one thing that could prevent disruption – that’s start genuine talks about pay.

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Wages are too low to stop health workers quitting the NHS. As more and more hand in their notice, there are fewer staff left to care for patients. The public knows that’s the reason behind lengthy waits at A&E, growing ambulance delays, postponed operations and cancelled clinics.

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Threatened NHS strikes in Scotland were called off because ministers there understand higher wages and improved staffing levels go hand in hand. Unfortunately, the penny’s yet to drop for the Westminster government.

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According to Downing Street, ministers did not discuss the Christmas strikes at this morning’s cabinet. Instead the main discussion was on crime, with Suella Braverman, the home secretary, telling colleagues overall crime was down by 10% since 2019.

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On strikes, the PM’s spokesperson told journalists the government was still committed to bringing in minimum service levels for trains – which would lessen the impact of future industrial action by the rail unions. He said:

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We recognise no legislation will be in place to mitigate against the disruption we’re expecting to see next week. We are pushing ahead with minimum service level legislation. That’s the plan whether or not the unions step back from the planned disruption next week.

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But the spokesperson would not say when the legislation, which has been promised since 2019, might be introduced. He said it had been held up by the pandemic, and he went on: “It’s something we’re proceeding with as fast as parliamentary time allows.”

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The Unite union has given more detail of the NHS strike by its members. It said more than 1,600 workers for ambulance trusts in the West Midlands, the north-west and the north-east will go on strike on Wednesday 21 December.

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But it said essential emergency cover would continue while the stoppage was on.

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In a statement Sharon Graham, the Unite general secretary, said:

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Make no mistake, we are now in the fight of our lives for the very NHS itself. These strikes are a stark warning – our members are taking a stand to save our NHS from this government.

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Patients’ lives are already at risk but this government is sitting on the sidelines, dodging its responsibility to sort out the crisis that it has created.

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Ministers can’t keep hiding behind the pay review body. They know full well it does not address the desperate need to get huge numbers of NHS workers off the breadline.

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Fail to act now to avert these strikes and the blame will rest firmly at the government’s door.

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Unite said it was still balloting 10,000 more NHS workers from 38 different employers about strike action, and that in January the strike ballot would be extended to even…



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