We’re in a new year, but our NHS is in the same state it was in 2022, which is almost certainly costing the lives of people in East Devon. Nationally, it’s been estimated that 500 people a week are dying who could have been saved if the health service could work properly.

The new year brought the news that NHS Devon has improvised another 'care hotel.' This is a hotel that’s been block-booked to house people who are well enough to leave the RD&E and Derriford, but haven’t got a care package to go home with. It will help a little with the pressures on beds in the main hospitals - but doesn’t it make you wonder why they closed the wards in our community hospitals in Axminster, Budleigh Salterton, Honiton, Ottery St Mary and Seaton, which were properly designed to provide “step down” care?

Richard Foord, the new Liberal Democrat MP for Tiverton and Honiton, reports: “Every week I hear from people who are in shock after calling an ambulance or visiting A&E only to learn that ‘emergency ’care now means waiting hours and hours for help.”

Richard is calling for Parliament, which is still on its Christmas break, to be recalled to address the NHS crisis, but Devon’s Conservative MPs are turning a blind eye. Simon Jupp, MP for East Devon, is still obsessed with parking charges, and it was embarrassing to watch Central Devon MP Mel Stride, who’s in the Cabinet, squirming on TV as he refused to acknowledge that there was a “crisis” at all. The Conservative line is that they’ve given more money to help with these pressures, but it was revealed this week that hospitals and councils have still not received £300m to free up NHS beds that was first promised four months ago.

In any case, the NHS and social care need more than these sticking plasters. Yet instead of getting the measure of the crisis, Rishi Sunak thinks the public can be fobbed off with glib slogans and simplistic pledges. All he’s promised for the NHS (without giving a timetable) is that “waiting lists will come down”.

This column has been going on about waiting lists for two years, and they’ve gone up so much that a drop must happen some time. But we need a drastic reduction, which will require real investment, and there’s no sign of that. With the crisis in the ambulance service and A&E, it’s almost as though Sunak’s trying to divert our attention.

Some of the other pledges were even more vacuous. “We will halve inflation” - but experts say it will more than halve by the end of the year anyway, without Sunak doing anything. In fact, the Prime Minister is so confident of this that he’s actually

planning to stoke inflation this spring, when he pushes up the cost of gas and electricity by another 20 per cent - something even Liz Truss wasn’t planning to do.

Sunak’s pledge about “small boats”, however, was vicious rather than vacuous. He plans to “swiftly remove” anyone who arrives in them, to Rwanda. Yet refugees are not “illegal” - international law says they can come to the UK. It’s incredible that the Prime Minister is spending so much of his time on this demonstrably “small” problem, which could be solved if he established a safe route for refugees to apply for asylum - which the Home Secretary has admitted does not exist.

Sunak says the problem is the people traffickers, but his policy is another kind of trafficking of desperate people, for political rather than financial gain. He hopes it will help him escape responsibility for the broken NHS. Let’s not let him get away with it.