The increasing strain on GPs, and pressures facing hospital workers in Sheffield, were on the agenda when the shadow health secretary visited the city.
Andy Burnham went to Woodhouse Medical Centre and the headquarters of the NHS Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group in Darnall as part of a ‘fact-finding’ tour as he prepares the Labour Party’s plans for the health service ahead of next year’s general election.
Mr Burnham – who was accompanied by Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough MP David Blunkett – said he saw the medical centre’s GPs were ‘working flat out’.
“There was a bit of a queue in the waiting room and I was told it was a quiet time,” he said.
Mr Burnham called health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s decision not to grant staff an across-the-board pay rise – which sparked a strike among health workers last week – ‘a disgrace’.
“The damage done to morale is, in the end, a threat to patient care,” he said.
A union member picketing outside the Northern General Hospital during the walkout told The Star some staff were relying on food banks to survive.
“Jeremy Hunt should listen to stories like that and get round the negotiating table,” Mr Burnham said.
He also heard about Sheffield’s efforts to connect health and social care, which Labour proposes to back with more funding.
“I wanted to hear from an integration pioneer,” he said.
But Mr Burnham – who once acted as Mr Blunkett’s Parliamentary Private Secretary – said he was ‘very sad on a personal level’ that the city MP is standing down after the 2015 election.“He’s been an incredibly close friend and mentor to me – he’s Sheffield to his core.”