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Labour calls for £500 million NHS fund to avoid winter crisis

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth urged the Government to avert a repeat of last year’s crisis.

Theresa May must pour a £500 million winter bailout fund into the NHS to avoid another seasonal crisis which could leave thousands of people waiting more than four hours for emergency care every day, Labour has said.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the Prime Minister must not stick her “head in the sand” because a “collapse” on the same scale as last year’s winter crisis will lead to 10,000 more people waiting for longer for A&E services.

Hundreds of operations will be cancelled and waiting lists will grow if the NHS is as busy as last winter, according to Labour analysis of official figures.

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(Peter Byrne/PA)

The £500 million should be focused on boosting hospitals’ capacity to deal with the winter spike, allowing hospitals to hire extra non-agency staff, and improving the link between the NHS and social care to reduce delayed transfers of care.

Previous winter bailouts have ranged between £300 million and £700 million.

Mr Ashworth said: “Last winter, Theresa May stuck her head in the sand and refused to give the NHS the money it needed to keep services running properly.

“This decision pushed NHS staff beyond their limits and caused misery for patients in every part of the country. It can’t be allowed to happen again.

“Labour is calling for a comprehensive package of emergency support, including a new £500 million winter bailout fund, to urgently be put in place so that patients don’t suffer the same pain as last year all over again.

“It is not acceptable for the Government to stumble into another NHS winter crisis – they’ve been well warned and need to take action now”.

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