[Prior to Christmas] I am reminded that thousands of key workers, especially those working in the health and care sector, will continue to provide essential services throughout the holiday period. 

I am immensely grateful for their sacrifice; but sadly they are being let down by a Conservative government which is making their jobs impossible.

This month, Cornwall’s senior coroner published a “Prevention of Future Deaths” letter which had been sent to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. 

The letter listed multiple examples of deaths in Cornwall which were caused by delays in ambulances reaching patients or handing them over at the door of the hospital. 

Patients who should have been treated within minutes were left for hours on end, often in great distress. 

People are dying unnecessarily in Cornwall on a daily basis, and many others have suffered permanent harm. 

It is clear that these problems are not the fault of individual staff, who are heroically working themselves to the point of “burn-out”, but the system is simply overwhelmed.

 This is not the first time the coroner has written to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care about ambulance delays in Cornwall. I have been campaigning on this issue for over 15 years and have discussed it with the senior coroner on multiple occasions.

 Although the deaths mentioned in the coroner’s letter happened many months ago, new figures published last week by NHS England showed that Derriford and Treliske had the worst handover delays in the whole country, with 80 per cent of ambulances being forced to wait outside the hospital for 30 minutes or more.

There have been six Health Secretaries in the past seven years and each of them has made the situation worse by throwing cash at “sticking plaster” solutions, whilst taking money away from the measures which would have a greater long-term impact.

The Liberal Democrats locally and nationally are calling for greater investment in GPs, as well as funding for health and wellbeing activities which have been proven to save far more than they cost. But not one penny of the latest £200-million “emergency cash injection” has been used in this way.

 The coroner’s letter is crystal clear that this problem can only be fixed by a fundamental change of approach at a national level:

“The challenges are systemic in nature. They are too big for a single doctor, nurse or paramedic to fix. They are too big for either the hospital trust or the ambulance trust to fix on their own. 

It is for you and your department to take the action that is required to resolve the issues and to prevent future patients in the area from dying avoidable deaths.”

If six Conservative Health Secretaries have all failed to fix the system, perhaps it’s time to recognise that they are the problem…

Colin Martin – Cornwall Councillor for Lostwithiel, Lanreath, Luxulyan, Lanlivery, St Winnow, St Veep, Braddock and Boconnoc