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NHS should not be protected from cuts – Labour

17 June 2010

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The government should drop its plan to boost funding to the NHS for every year of this Parliament, the shadow health secretary Andy Burnham has said.

Mr Burnham said protecting the NHS from deep cuts that will be felt elsewhere will be counterproductive and cause other important areas such as social care and education to suffer disproportionately.

The Labour MP for Leigh, who is a contender for the Labour leadership, acknowledged that it might seem odd for a health spokesman to be calling for less spending on the NHS. But he insisted that even if the NHS budget is ringfenced it will still suffer as it struggles under the weight of extra patients formerly looked after by social care in the community.

He said that Prime Minister David Cameron’s commitment had been driven by political expediency, because of the “toxicity” of health cuts for Conservatives during an election campaign.

He told The Guardian: “If this goes ahead they will hollow out social care to such a degree that the NHS will not be able to function anyway, because it will not be able to discharge people from hospital.”

Fulfilling the pledge to increase NHS spending would “necessarily inflict very large cuts on everyone else, including care and older people”, he said. In some cases the cuts would be so bad they would “damage services beyond repair”.

He warned that it was “irresponsible” for Chancellor George Osborne to protect the NHS from the cuts which he is planning to inflict on all other public services, warning that he risks visiting real damage on services like day care, housing and meals, which have a direct relation to health.

Copyright © Press Association 2010