Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth warns Britain is heading into 'one of the bleakest winters in the history of the NHS'

Britain is heading into one of the bleakest winters in the history of the National Health Service, the Shadow Health Secretary has warned, as a second wave of the pandemic looms and figures show waiting times for medical treatments in Yorkshire have doubled in the last six months.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth called for a "circuit break"
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth called for a "circuit break"

Speaking exclusively to the Yorkshire Post, Jonathan Ashworth said the problem was likely to get worse if the government does not act quickly to improve services.

This comes as doctors, nurses, charities and other health experts revealed fears that under-resourcing in the region’s hospitals would cause unnecessary deaths over the winter as NHS staff may be unable to cope with the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic and the backlog of routine treatments that people desperately need.

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Yorkshire Post analysis of official data for August showed that waiting times have doubled since February with nearly half a million people in the region now on treatment waiting lists.

A total of 9,681 have been waiting more than a year, some of whom are in constant pain, have been forced to give up work and need to rely on relatives to look after them.

Labour MP Mr Ashworth said: “If we don't get on top of this virus quickly and deal with the resource issues facing the NHS, the lack of staff and the vacancy levels for clinicians across Yorkshire, I think we're going to see people, whether in Doncaster, Rotherham, Bradford, York or Huddersfield waiting longer for treatment, and possibly not getting the treatment they need this winter.”

He warned of a “risk to patient safety caused by a lack of decent facilities” in some hospitals in the region after Labour research revealed 13 trusts in Yorkshire and the North East had reported safety risks since the start of the pandemic.

Mr Ashworth said waiting lists should be a priority for the Government because, as well as the pain and suffering they cause, they can lead to further complications which can cost lives.

He said: “If you have a fall because you’ve been waiting months and months and months for a hip operation, that can have devastating consequences.

“I don’t think it’s fair on people. It’s a disgrace.”

He called for a “circuit break” - a two or three week lockdown to cut infection rates.

He said: “Nobody wants to see a disastrous full lockdown which goes on for weeks and weeks, almost indefinitely like we had earlier in the year, no one is most no one's proposing law and what we're proposing a low party's a two to three weeks circuit break.

“That would give the NHS across Yorkshire a degree of breathing space as we head into this very difficult winter.”

While further investment will cost money at a time the economy is already struggling, economic measures and health measures “go hand in hand”, he said.

“One of the reasons why we've been hit so hard as a nation in responding to Covid is because we went into this crisis with less resilience as a society, because after years of Tory cutbacks.

“We could have been more resilient when this fire has hit us and I think that is an issue which is particularly acutely felt in many parts of Yorkshire.”

The Prime Minister warned that not abiding by coronavirus restrictions would also result in more harm from other conditions.

In a Downing Street press conference he said: ""These decisions [to impose restrictions] were necessary because of the rate of increase not just of infections but also in hospitalisations and admissions to intensive care. Without action, there is no doubt that our NHS would soon be struggling to treat the sheer number of people seriously ill with Covid. Non-Covid treatments and surgeries would need to be cancelled in order to cope. And many more people would die."