Drop the Health Bill, says Labour leader

BOLTON patients are suffering because ambulance and hospital services are being hit by Government cuts, health workers in the town have warned.

Frontline staff made a series of complaints as Labour leader Ed Miliband visited the Royal Bolton Hospital yesterday — where he gave a keynote speech blasting the Government’s new Health and Social Care Bill.

He visited a children’s ward at the hospital before holding talks with health staff at the Bolton Science and Technology Centre.

Mr Miliband was shown around the children’s ward by Sister Mary Howarth.

They met Carla Toner and her 16- month-old son, Marley Richardson, in the ward playroom.

He is recovering from tonsillitis. Mr Miliband also spoke to Michelle Dixon and Steven Lowe, whose son, Lincoln, aged four, was being treated for a skin infection.

All the parents had high praise for the hospital but later, at a question and answer session at the nearby science and technology centre, hospital staff complained that changes already being implemented were making their jobs harder and care for patients worse.

Nurse Rachael Ashton said: “There are patients in A&E who are put into corridors. I cannot offer them things because it does not fit into the budget.”

Fighting back tears, the 29-year-old from Little Hulton added: “Patients are getting the bare minimum.”

Bolton South East MP Yasmin Qureshi and Leigh MP Andy Burnham, who is Shadow Health Secretary, joined Mr Miliband on the visit.

Mr Burnham defended Labour’s health reforms and claimed the Government’s proposed changes would allow commercial firms too much power.

He said national pay and conditions agreements were essential, or hospitals would poach staff and undermine each other, adding: “Wigan could take staff from Bolton and Bolton could take staff from Salford.

It would be chaos.”

Ambulanceman Mike Atkinson claimed meeting response targets took precedence over the standard of care.

He said: “We’ve got to get to life-threatening cases in eight minutes, but it does not matter what kind of service. We might get an early response car there within eight minutes, but we cannot get an ambulance for an hour sometimes.

There are not enough frontline ambulances.”

Harry Hanley, a Unison representative who works in hospital sterilisation services, said: “Bolton is very passionate about the NHS.

“Take a message back to Pinkie and Perkie (David Cameron and Nick Clegg) that Bolton will fight tooth-and-nail for the NHS.” A hospital laundry worker said staff there could be cut from 30 to nine and Mr Burnham replied: “This is a false economy if you cannot guarantee cleanliness.

We’ve got a massive responsibility to fight this.”

An eye nurse with 24 years’ experience said patients might have initial assessments within a few minutes, but it could be two hours before they saw a doctor.

At the end of the session Mr Miliband said: “We have learned more here in one hour than a week at Westminster.”

He added: “The Prime Minister made solemn promises before the election to the country. He has broken all these promises and more. It is bad for our NHS and bad for politics.

“He should drop his NHS Bill and at least restore one of his broken promises. He should listen to doctors and nurses and the 140,000 who have signed the petition urging him to drop the Health Bill.”

Last night Health Minister Simon Burns hit back at Mr Miliband’s claims and said: “Ed Miliband can talk the NHS down all he likes, but the truth is that services are getting better all the time.”

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