Gallery: Town’s May Day festival sees NHS funding top the agenda

Fine weather yesterday afternoon brought out hundreds of people to the Ipswich May Day festival – where shadow health secretary Andy Burnham urged them to stage one last push to ensure a Labour victory in Thursday’s general election.

Mr Burnham addressed the crowds in Alexandra Park, at the event organised by local trades unions, and called on supporters to “Save the NHS.”

He said that 40% of contracts for health provision by the NHS had gone to commercial businesses and just 41% had stayed with the NHS – and claimed that the election of a Conservative government would see more health services privatised.

He welcomed the fact that Ipswich Hospital had been rated as “good”, and its emergency department as “outstanding”, but warned that financial concerns could undermine this success.

Ipswich Labour candidate David Ellesmere said that Ipswich Hospital was running a £12million deficit.

Mr Burnham said: “The rating from the CQC is a great tribute to the work of the staff at the hospital, but with a substantial deficit there are real problems there.

“Hiring staff from the private sector is a major cost to hospitals like Ipswich – that is why we are planning to recruit 20,000 extra nurses.”

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Mr Burnham said the problems faced by the health service were not confined to hospitals – he was determined to tackle the GP shortage.

Mr Ellesmere said there were problems at some surgeries in the constituency as it was proving difficult to replace GPs who retired or moved to new jobs.

Mr Burnham added: “This is a problem that I have heard about right across the East of England (he visited Ipswich after travelling to Norwich and Great Yarmouth) and it is why nationally we are looking to recruit 8,000 more GPs.”

And he was scornful of health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s promise to spend £8billion extra per year on the NHS by 2020.

He said: “The NHS needs money now. Where is this £8bn coming from in 2020? It is just an IOU from the Conservatives.”

The festival itself attracted a good crowd during the afternoon once the morning rain had passed – but a heavy shower shortly after Mr Burnham spoke sent people rushing home.