Chuka writes for the SLP on Health and Social Care

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

Chuka Umunna MP wrote the following column for the 21 June edition of the South London Press:

Of all the things that constituents have raised with me since I was elected three years ago, one of the most pressing has been concern about our healthcare system and the damage that this government has inflicted on our NHS. As our society gets older, a lot of people are worried about how they can take care of themselves and their families. Nobody wants a crisis in the NHS.

I know many people felt betrayed when the government decided to carry out a top-down reorganisation of our healthcare system, which they had promised not to do. David Cameron made a lot of promises on the NHS, but as soon as he and the Liberal Democrats got into power they started to break those promises. On their watch more than 4,000 nursing jobs have been lost, and the closure of many NHS walk-in centres and the chaos with the 111 helpline has placed a growing burden on A&E.

When Labour left office, A&E was holding up well with 98% of patients seen on time, but since the 2010 election the number of patients waiting more than 4 hours in A&E has nearly trebled. The South London Press reported earlier this month on how figures from the Department of Health show that one of our local hospitals, King’s College, has seen a dramatic rise in people having their non-emergency operations called off.

I am proud as a Labour MP to be part of the Party that created the NHS, and proud to have stood in Parliament against the unwanted top-down reorganisation the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives pushed through. But as well as those famous broken promises, there is a deeper cause to the A&E crisis, an unspoken scandal that Labour will not stand for – the cuts to care that have been bad for the NHS, bad for older people and terrible for the taxpayer as well.

Far too often, it has been for the lack of simple support at home that a lot of older people struggle and have to go to A&E. Far too many become stranded in hospital because the cuts mean the help they’d need outside isn’t easy to get. Instead of spending a small amount so people can stay well at home, government has to spend a fortune on expensive hospital care to compensate.

Labour has called for £1.2 billion of the NHS underspend – handed back to the Treasury in March – to be given to social care to ease the short-term funding crisis over the next two years. In the long-term Labour is going to bring health and care together into a single service to meet all of a person’s care needs – physical, mental, and social. This would mean better, less frustrating care, improving people’s lives and making the most of NHS resources.

I know that people don’t want to spend time in hospital when it’s not in their best interests, and that people want a smoother experience of care. In Labour, we are determined to achieve that.

Chuka comments ahead of Labour’s A&E Opposition Day Debate

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

Commenting ahead of Labour’s Opposition Day debate on A&E, Chuka Umunna MP said:

“We are doing everything we can to get the government to address the A&E crisis. Local people are very concerned about what is happening with A&E in the NHS.

“The Chief Executive of the NHS has said that these A&E pressures have been compounded by three years of structural reforms. Nobody voted for the top-down reorganisation that Conservatives and Liberal Democrats introduced – their toxic mix of top-down reorganisation and budget cuts have taken resources away from patient care and are a betrayal of everyone who values the NHS.

“Neither Conservative or Lib Dem Ministers can be trusted with the NHS – they should accept Labour’s A&E rescue plan immediately and should start helping to clear up the mess they’ve inflicted on our health service.”



Chuka campaigns in Tulse Hill for the Government to ‘drop the bill’

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Nye Bevan said that ‘The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it’. On Saturday Chuka Umunna took that fight to Tulse Hill in his constituency, campaigning on a Street Stall with local volunteers and Labour activists as part of the ‘drop the bill’ campaign which calls on the Government to put a halt to its reckless plans for the NHS.

Mr Umunna  regularly participates in street stalls throughout the constituency as they are a great chance for him to meet as many constituents as possible and keep up-to-date with the issues that matter in the community.

Chuka receives NHS petition

Friday, July 8th, 2011

Chuka has met with a group of local health professionals and activists who delivered him a petition highlighting concerns with the government’s planned NHS changes. The petition, organised through the 38Degrees website, was signed by 1,204 Streatham residents.

Chuka is opposing the government’s Health and Social Care Bill. In May, he spoke in a debate on the future of the NHS in Parliament, highlighting the concerns which have been raised by local clinicians and NHS users, in particular regarding the impact the changes will have on our local hospitals.

MP raises local concerns over NHS changes and job cuts

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

Chuka Umunna has raised concerns about the affect of the government’s NHS changes locally with ministers in Parliament.

Speaking in a debate on the future of the NHS yesterday, Mr Umunna highlighted concerns which had been passed to him by local doctors, health professionals and service users.

He raised the issue that St Thomas’ Hospital, where he was born, as a teaching hospital faces additional pressures and asked why the government’s planned changes to the NHS have not done more to take this into account. It costs the exchequer £250,000 to train a junior doctor and £45,000 over three years to train a nurse.

Under the government’s planned changes, NHS providers such as St Thomas’ would need to compete with private sector companies to get work commissioned by GPs. Given the additional burdens of teaching, there are questions on how teaching hospitals will be able to compete in this way.

There have also been reports that St George’s Hospital is facing job cuts of more than 500, while the London Ambulance Service has said that it expects to cut 890 jobs over the next five years including 560 frontline jobs. King’s College hospital has already cut 58 staff posts in the last year.

Local primary care trusts, including Lambeth PCTs, are in process of being abolished and replaced by GP consortia. Mr Umunna raised the upheaval and worry that this will cause locally, and asked whether because of transfer of undertakings regulations, the rights of employees working for the PCT would be protected and they would retain the same terms and conditions.

Since 1997, Streatham has benefitted from six new and improved health centres including Baldry Gardens and Edith Cavell Surgery. There has been an 18 per cent reduction in deaths from cancer in Lambeth since the mid-1990s and a 45 per cent reduction in mortality rates from cardiovascular disease, covering conditions such as heart disease and stroke.

Commenting, Mr Umunna said:

“Our local hospitals, clinics and surgeries and their staff do fantastic work every day and I am always struck by the dedication of those whose work makes the NHS what it is.

“I am very anxious about what impact job cuts and the government’s ill thought out reforms will have on the care, standards and service which my constituents receive.

“Not one clinician I’ve met locally has told me they think the government’s proposed reforms will deliver better outcomes and treatment for my constituents.”

Labour Manifesto: Health

Saturday, May 1st, 2010

Under Labour, the NHS has seen an average increase in resources of 6.7 per cent each year since 1999.

The Labour Party manifesto aims to build on this firm foundation by giving patients legally enforceable guarantees.

The first of these came into effect on 1 April 2010: if your GP suspects that you may have cancer you are guaranteed to see a specialist in two weeks. Labour will add to this, guaranteeing diagnostic tests for cancer in one week. Treatment will be guaranteed to start within 18 weeks of seeing a GP, otherwise the NHS will fund a private alternative.

The NHS is a world-class health service, however Labour wants to improve its capacity for preventative care. This emphasis on preventative medicine can be seen in the ambitious project Change 4 Life which aims to promote a healthier and more active lifestyle.

Further to this, regular health checks will be guaranteed for people between the ages of 40 and 74, which could help prevent as many as 10,000 heart attacks and strokes every year.

Labour will aim to make it easier for people to access the NHS services by expanding the availability of GP led health centers which are open 7 days a week from ’8 til 8′.

People will be able to register with a GP anywhere they choose, including near their work if that makes accessing NHS services easier, while a national ’111′ telephone will be introduced making it easier to access and book non-emergency medical services.

The full details of all Labour’s manifesto pledges can be found on the manifesto section of the website.

Video: Gracefield Gardens

Friday, April 30th, 2010

In this video, Chuka discusses Labour delivery in Streatham outside Gracefield Gardens Health Centre.

Having opened in 2008, the centre gives residents access to council and health services under one roof including GPs, nursing, foot health, baby clinic, midwifery and specialist therapy, and represents £8.9m of government investment.

Video: NHS Baldry Gardens

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

In this video, Chuka discusses what Labour has done for local health services outside NHS Baldry Gardens, a fantastic new health facility due to open this summer.

It will provide new premises for a popular GP practice as well as a large community space used for health activities including baby clinics and exercise classes.

In February, Keith Hill took part in the topping out ceremony of the new building along with Chair of NHS Lambeth Caroline Hewitt and Dr Jim Hill, a GP at Drakewood Surgery.

Baldry Gardens is one of six new or improved health centres across the Streatham Constituency since 1997.

NHS constitution

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

Since coming into power in 1997 the Labour Party has dramatically increased the funding available for the National Health Service.

Demonstrating how the NHS is safe in the hands of a Labour government, there has been an average annual increase of 6.7% in resources since 1999. However, we cannot be content to rest on our laurels, and this is why we are continually adapting and improving the service.

With this in mind Labour has turned the time targets which have improved the delivery of vital medical services into legally enforceable rights. The NHS constitution sets out what professionals, patients and the public can expect from the NHS.

Since April 1st of this year, patients have had the legally enforceable right to be seen by a specialist within 2 weeks if they are expected to have cancer. Further to this, over the next five years the Labour Party will deliver its commitment to provide diagnosis for suspected lung, colorectal or ovarian cancer within a week, which could save up to 10,000 lives per year.

The Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, commented:

“As the NHS continues to improve, so will its Constitution – that is why we are already looking ahead at future rights. We want patients to have the legal right to key diagnostic tests and results for patients who may have cancer within one week of seeing a GP, to die at home, to evening and weekend access to GPs, and to access to NHS dentistry.

“As the NHS strives to move from good to great and becomes more people-centred and preventative, the Constitution will ensure that all the improvements it makes can be safeguarded for generations to come.”

Details of the rights you are entitled to as a patient of the NHS can be found on the NHS website, and if you wish to support this initiative then you can pledge your support at

Building the National Care Service

Monday, April 5th, 2010

The government published the Building the National Care Service white paper which set out the principles by which a National Care Service would be created. The National Care Service is ultimately envisioned to be akin to the National Health Service – a universal service that is free at point of use.

The white paper puts forward 6 founding principles for the universal care system, the National Care Service should:

• Be universal: It should support all those who need it, when they need it.
• Be free at point of use: The provision of quality care shouldn’t be based on wealth, but should be based on need.
• Work in partnership: It needs to involve all those groups – public, private and NGOs – providing individuals with care services.
• Offer choice and control: People should be treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.
• Supporting carers, families and community life: The system needs to recognise and support the contributions made by families carers and communities.
• Be accessible: It should be easy to access and understand, helping people make the choices that are right for them.

This is obviously an ambitious project, and in recognition of this fact Labour have set out three stages in which a truly universal National Care Service can be created. The first phase is the Personal Care at Home Bill that the Government is currently taking through Parliament, this will provide 400,000 people with free care. Secondly, by 2014 Labour would aim to provide free care for anyone who spends more than 2 years in residential care. Finally, the introduction of a fully-fledged National Care Service, though this would have to be introduced after the next Parliament.

The proposals for a universally available system of care would require everyone to make a fair contribution, however a range of deferred payment options could be offered. Different payment methods will suit different people, and for this reason we believe that options should be offered that fit with people’s circumstances.

Age Concern are currently running a consultation on the proposals offered by Labour, you can let them know what you think on their website or by emailing them at care {at}