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Thanet Labour politician says government is set on running NHS into ground

By Paul Francis

The government has been accused of deliberately running the NHS into the ground by a senior Labour county councillor as hundreds of non-urgent operations at Kent hospitals are cancelled to ease pressure caused by the winter crisis.

Cllr Karen Constantine, who sits on the cross-party Kent and Medway scrutiny committee, said the crisis was predictable.

“The situation within the NHS is wholly predictable and preventable. There have been repeated warnings from the BMA, the Royal Colleges, unions as well as other patient representatives groups. This is an entirely predictable situation based on declining NHS funding and political intransigence. This government is driving the NHS into the ground deliberately.”

She said the emergency measure would store up problems for the future.

“Who actually decides what is 'non urgent'? Delaying treatment will cause anxiety and will possibly lead to worsening health for individuals and more pressure on GPs and A&Es. Many people will be left to suffer in pain. It will lead to a backlog to be cleared and complaints. Staff will be under even more pressure.”

Cllr Dan Daley, who represents the Liberal Democrats on the cross-party committee said:

“Hospitals have really been left with no choice. People have really got expectations of the NHS that are not deliverable and we are moving to changes whereby people are going to have to take out some kind of private insurance to cover some of these treatments.”

In an attempt to ease the pressure, the government has instructed health chiefs to postpone inessential operations, treatments and appointments for the rest of January.

Planned treatments had already been postponed until mid-January, but NHS England said that would now be extended to the end of the month.

Trusts in both Kent and Medway say they are prepared to deal with the crisis and had already made contingency plans to cope with a surge in demand. Several hospitals are already on "black alert" - the highest state of emergency.

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