Health has dominated the news this past week, writes council leader Bella Sankey. Not least because King Charles bravely decided to share his cancer diagnosis. I extend my best wishes to His Majesty for his successful medical treatment and his swift and full recovery.

According to Macmillan Cancer support, sadly 1,100 people in the UK are diagnosed with cancer every day. Three million people live with the disease. Everyone knows someone who has been affected by it.

In general, we hope and expect that as a society we will reap the benefits of advances in science and medicine in treating and overcoming this disease. But the system designed to ensure we get diagnosed and treated in time to enhance our chances of good recovery is malfunctioning. A BBC News analysis this week revealed that cancer waiting times in 2023 were the worst on record, having worsened every year for 11 of the 14 years of Tory government. This means that people are waiting far too long for life-saving treatment.

This is just one of many examples of a health system on life support. And contrary what the Tories say, these issues were not created by the Covid 19 pandemic, the evidence shows that things were already heading in the wrong direction. The latest NHS performance figures reveal over seven million treatments were waiting to be carried out at the end of December, with the waiting list for treatments growing steadily over the past ten years, reaching three million in 2014 and seven million in 2022. The last Labour government delivered 13 years of the shortest waiting times and the highest patient satisfaction in history.

The last 14 years under the Tories have delivered the opposite.

The other part of our health system which is malfunctioning is our emergency admissions. Some 54,308 people had to wait more than 12 hours in A&E departments in January, while ambulances took an average of 40 minutes and six seconds last month to respond to emergency calls such as heart attacks, strokes and sepsis.

Figures published by NHS England revealed that in January, two thirds of people who arrived at accident and emergency at the Sussex County were seen within four hours, missing the government’s target of 76 per cent.

I have very little in common with Piers Morgan, but I took note when he made headlines last week for his comments about our A&E department. In my Argus column on November 7 last year, following a guided tour around the hospital by senior executives, I wrote that “our A&E department is like a war zone”. The same phrase was used by Piers when he spoke directly to the Prime Minister about the awful near-death experience of his mother, who was left on a trolley in a corridor at the Sussex after suffering a heart-attack.

Rishi Sunak’s response? Blaming staff and the Covid pandemic.

Typical from a Prime Minister who is relentlessly out of touch and knows only how to punch down at those who are unable to respond.

By contrast, as your Labour council we are doing everything we can to support our hospital with the safe and timely discharge of patients, utilising existing accommodation and ensuring good flow through our discharge, care and supported accommodation pathways. Following my visit last autumn, we redoubled our efforts to co-ordinate with NHS colleagues for patients with complex needs and working with the hospital to support patients who are homeless to ensure that we, as the local housing authority, can be ready to support them at the next stage.

But we need much more drastic and comprehensive change to turn things around. Change that only a Labour government can deliver. Labour will never abandon the founding principles of the NHS as a publicly funded public service, free at the point of use. Which is why the next Labour government will immediately put £1.1billion funding into the NHS to clear the back log.

Our reform of the NHS will focus on prevention, training thousands more GPs and bringing back the family doctor. We’ll ensure that A&E is reserved for emergency care as is intended and provide mental health hubs in communities.

We’ll recognise the importance of the social care sector through a national care service with better conditions for care workers, support for carers and dignity for those who require care, keeping people safe and healthy in their homes for as long as possible.

I know that NHS staff are battling every day to provide quality care against the odds and I would like to thank them for all they are doing.

Bella Sankey is Labour leader of Brighton and Hove City Council