The availability – or lack of it – of NHS hospital beds is big news at the moment and rightly so, with the public imagination caught by the image of toddler Jack Newman, who had to be treated on a makeshift ‘bed’ made of two plastic chairs pushed together because no real bed was available for him.
Even BBC News, which often leaves news unmentioned if it’s inconvenient to the government, is giving the issue a high profile, with its ‘Victoria Derbyshire’ programme including it prominently this morning.
The right-wing press, meanwhile, is styling this a ‘bed-blocking scandal’, which is true as far as it goes – draconian Tory cuts to social care have resulted in huge numbers of frail patients having no safe place to go to from hospital and councils unwilling or unable to bear the cost of their care.
However, this perspective ignores – deliberately? – the truth that the blocking of existing beds is only one end of a dismal story. The other, equally damning part of the equation consists of the drastic cuts to bed numbers that are taking place under the Tories.
Since the Tories took Downing Street, they have removed 14,997 NHS overnight beds. (Data)
That means 5,474,000 fewer bed spaces a year available to NHS patients – and a trolley in a corridor for desperately-ill patients, if they’re ‘lucky’. If they’re not ‘lucky’, then it means plastic chairs for a makeshift bed like little Jack Newman, or being stuck in an ambulance for hours outside A&E – an ambulance that then can’t get to the next emergency.
Existing beds filled by patients that can’t get care, beds that are gone altogether because of a Tory government that considers the NHS a 68-year ‘mistake’. Whichever way you look at it, this is a Tory-created crisis – and in fact, one that they were planning even before they came to power.
Small wonder the Tory-owned and -suborned media are not telling you.
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