CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Health Secretary Matt Hancock gives out wrong figures on Royal Free staffing

Claim that hospital has 900 more nurses and 600 more doctors do not tally with official numbers

11 December, 2019 — By Tom Foot

Matt Hancock with Hampstead and Kilburn candidate Johnny Luk

HEALTH secretary Matt Hancock today (Wednesday) insisted there had been a huge increase in frontline staff at the Royal Free during a decade of Tory rule, only for his claims to not match up with official figures provided by the hospital in Hampstead.

The Conservative frontbencher was in Hampstead on one of his final campaign visits before tomorrows’s (Thursday’s) general election.

With the future of the NHS and its ability to cope one of the red hot issues at the polls, Mr Hancock stood outside the hospital in Pond Street and declared: “There are 900 more nurses in the Royal Free now than in 2010 – and 600 more doctors. The Royal Free is a vital pillar of London’s NHS, and like all parts of the NHS, there is rising demand. I looked up the figures, the number of people treated here has gone up very significantly over the last few years.”

The New Journal asked the hospital if these figures were correct. It said that the increase over that period at the Hampstead hospital had been 252 nurses and 251 doctors.

Asked to clarify his numbers – and told the Royal Free had this year posted its worst-ever deficit and had been struggling financially for almost a decade – Mr Hancock repeated the claim, before adding: “It makes me cross when the focus is only on the negative. I’ll stick up for the staff at the Royal Free who are under pressure any day of the week. The amount of extra resources we have been given has already run into billions of pounds. There has been a 5 per cent investment in the NHS here in Camden.”


SEE ALSO HANCOCK VISIT SHOWS WE ARE ‘CLOSING IN’, SAYS JOHNNY LUK ON ELECTION EVE


In 2014, the Royal Free, Barnet and Chase farm hospitals came together in a merger that more than doubled staffing levels and care statistics.

But the expansion project has seen financial problems, triggering an investigation from auditors which revealed it is saddled with an eye-watering debt of £240million in repayable loans.

Despite the best efforts of frontline staff, the Care Quality Commission said the trust has “required improvement” for the first time and asked it to address its high nursing vacancy rates.

More than 20 per cent of nursing positions are currently unfilled in some departments, according to a report published by the Commission in May.

The Tories, nationally, have been criticised for claiming they plan to build 40 new hospitals by 2030 when it was revealed work on only six had been identified.

The run-in to election day has also seen Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s opponents claim that private US healthcare providers could be able to buy into the NHS.

This week, a photograph of a four-year-old boy sleeping on a pile of coats at a hospital in Leeds due to bed shortages, while he was suffering from suspected pneumonia, further ignited the row over NHS spending.

Mr Johnson refused to look at the photograph when challenged by an ITV reporter. He later apologised for the treatment received by the family.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “It’s an example of what is happening in our NHS. “More research shows there’s a very large number of hospitals where patients are at risk because of staff shortages, because of the lack of equipment, because of poor maintenance of hospital buildings.”

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