Kate Hollern, Labour MP for Blackburn, writes her fortnightly column for the Lancashire Telegraph, this week focused on the NHS.

There was a worrying news story published last week about an 80-year-old man who spent 36 hours on a trolley in a corridor at the Royal Blackburn Hospital.

Sadly, stories such as this are becoming increasingly more common across the country, so regrettably this example is not unusual.

In my role as Blackburn’s MP, I meet with the chief executive of East Lancashire Hospitals Trust regularly, and I happened to have such a meeting just under a fortnight ago.

It was helpful to hear what good work ELHT is doing in the face of huge challenges.  

I subsequently raised the aforementioned case and have been assured that this was an exceptional incident. However, it was extremely distressing for the patient and family.

Hospitals continue to experience unprecedented pressure on emergency services and urgent care pathways, as records are regularly being broken for the number of people who come in for treatment each week.

Health inequalities have worsened since the pandemic and hospitals are seeing people in poorer shape when they first arrive.

The NHS is facing both an unprecedented immediate crisis and an existential long-term challenge. The situation was compounded by the pandemic, but it was not created by it.

Across the wider NHS we see that patients are facing month long waits to see a GP, with 7 million people currently on the waiting list for hospital treatment.

Ambulances aren’t reaching people in time to save lives, and there are dangerously long queues in A&E departments. Long waits for care and deteriorating services are becoming increasingly normalised.

Amidst all of this I know that staff are doing everything they can to support patients and their families in an extremely pressurised and challenged environment.

The resilience of colleagues is outstanding considering the situation that they face. Whilst patients are waiting for beds, they are being cared for, reviewed, assessed and supported.

I pay tribute to the dedication of staff – and whilst we all clapped the NHS during the pandemic it is easy to forget that the burdens on the NHS have not gone away – hospitals are busier than ever this winter.

Staff are under immense pressure; the need to grow the workforce is clear.

The reality is that funding from government is simply not there, and 14 years of decline is taking its toll.

The Government has made promise after promise on the NHS – most notably that 40 new hospitals would be built.

Across Lancashire and South Cumbria, we know that new hospitals are needed in Preston and Lancaster, but realistically this is going to take years to materialise.

If current polling is to be believed, it is unlikely that the government that will be implementing this policy will be the same government that promised to deliver it.  

Labour would build an NHS fit for the future.

As people are living longer, most of the NHS’s work is focused on treating long-term ongoing diseases.

As such, the need to expand care at home and in the community to prevent long hospital stays is becoming ever more important.

The NHS must have a workforce which is equipped with the latest technology to maximise efficiency for patients and staff.

We must also focus on the prevention of poor health, which requires a wholistic approach that tackles societal inequalities.

This means ensuring that everyone has good quality housing, a clean environment and access to nutritious food and exercise facilities.

Everyone, wherever they live, whatever they earn, should be able to access healthcare that is free at the point of use. That was the unique, founding basis of the NHS. After 14 years of Conservative Governments, this has been seriously undermined.

For now, the message from hospitals is to only attend urgent or emergency centres if you have medical needs that are life threatening.

Otherwise, NHS 111 clinicians can immediately guide you to the most appropriate place for help.