Rishi Sunak today refused to say whether the NHS is in ‘crisis’, although the prime minister admitted hospitals were under ‘enormous pressure’ this winter.
After a meeting with health experts on NHS recovery plans in Downing Street, Mr Sunak admitted there had been ‘unacceptable delays’ in A&E and for ambulances.
He repeatedly accused the health service of straining due to the Covid pandemic and admitted that the problems would not be solved ‘overnight’.
But – as well as highlighting the government’s billions of pounds of extra funding for the NHS – Mr Sunak insisted he had fresh ‘confidence and optimism’ ahead of his talks with health leaders at Number 10 later this week After that the chaos will subside.
In an interview with the BBC’s Laura Kuensberg after hosting the ‘NHS Recovery Forum’, Sunak was pressed on whether the current state of the healthcare system represented a ‘crisis’.
The PM insisted that ‘actions speak louder than words’ as he would only say that the NHS was ‘under pressure’.
Mr Sunak also shied away from disclosing his own healthcare arrangement, following previous reports that he is registered with a private GP practice.
He insisted that whether or not he used private healthcare was ‘not really relevant’ and ‘distracting’ from the ‘real issue’ of providing high quality services for the country.
The NHS is currently battling a ‘twindemic’ of Covid cases as well as the worst influenza outbreak in a decade.
There have been widespread reports of shocking delays in ambulances and A&E, while some hospitals are discharging patients to hotel rooms to ease demand for beds.
The chaos in the health service comes as unions and the government lock horns in a fierce dispute over the pay of NHS staff during the cost-of-living crisis.
Some ambulance workers are preparing to go on strike again on Wednesday, while nurses are also planning to stage another walkout on January 18 and 19.
Following a meeting with health experts on NHS recovery plans in Downing Street, Rishi Sunak admitted there had been ‘unacceptable delays’ in A&E and for ambulances.
In an interview with the BBC’s Laura Kuensberg, the prime minister shies away from revealing his own healthcare system after reports he is registered with a private GP practice
NHS figures show there were record delays in ambulances handing patients over to A&E departments in the week from 1 January. More than a quarter (18,720) were forced to queue for more than 60 minutes before A&E could hand over their patients.
The NHS is battling a ‘twindemic’ of Covid cases and the worst influenza outbreak in a decade. Graph shows weekly hospital admissions per 100,000 people for Covid (red) and flu (blue) in the week from January 1
Grandma, 79, was bundled into a bin lid and taken to A&E after breaking her hip ‘as there was no ambulance available’
Pamela Rolfe, 79, broke her hip after falling in a park while walking her dog
Her family claimed that a great-grandmother was taken to the hospital without a cover, when they were told that no ambulance was available.
Pamela Rolfe, 79, broke a hip after falling in a park while walking her dog in Johnstown, north Wales, last week. But when her family called 999, they were told she didn’t qualify for an ambulance.
Neighbors tore the lid off a garbage can that had been placed under the great-grandmother of the two children so she could be loaded into a van and taken to the hospital.
Ms Rolfe was put to bed eight hours after her fall and had surgery the next day.
Ms Rolfe collapsed on 29 December around 11am. Passers-by threw a quilt over her while she waited in wet and windy weather.
Nearly half of ambulances suffered delays of at least half an hour outside hospitals, as pressure on emergency care continues to mount, NHS figures showed.
The PM and his wife Akshata Murthy are estimated to have a combined net worth of £730 million.
This is due, in large part, to Ms Murthy’s wealth through her billionaire father’s Indian IT company.
Asked about his own health care system, Mr Sunak said: ‘As a general policy I will never talk about my or my family’s health care situation.
‘But that is not really relevant, what is relevant is the difference I can make for the country.’
Yesterday, the PM hosted clinical leaders, health experts and ministers in Downing Street to discuss pressures on A&E, social care and the NHS treatment backlog.
‘The NHS is undeniably under immense pressure and I have spent the day today speaking to NHS leaders,’ he said in a TV interview broadcast this morning.
‘Recovering from Covid is going to be tough and we are seeing that play out every day on our TV screens and in communities up and down the country’
‘But really I came out of all our meetings today with renewed confidence and optimism that we can tackle this problem.’
Asked if he thought the NHS was ‘in crisis’, Mr Sunak said: ‘I think action matters more than words.
‘And here are the actions: billions of extra pounds for the NHS and social care, at a time of hardship elsewhere, three weeks after I became Prime Minister in my Autumn Statement.
‘And then the next thing is, what difference is it going to make? And that’s the question people should be asking, that’s what I want to be held accountable for.
‘So yes, there are unacceptable delays in ambulances and A&E right now, but if you look at it, we’ve actually got a relatively small number of trusts – around 10 per cent of trusts which account for over half of all ambulance Delay in handing over.
Mr Sunak suggested some measures that could make a difference to the NHS ‘now’, including greater use of virtual wards, faster discharge of patients from hospitals to care homes, and a reconfiguration of ‘best practice’ for ambulance triage in A&E Stop people coming in if they can be treated at home.
The PM stressed that it is ‘not right’ to ignore the impact of the Covid crisis on hospitals.
He said: ‘Was there pressure on the NHS before? Of course it is. But Covid has definitely made a huge difference and it is wrong to ignore it.
‘But what we are doing is really putting more money in, making sure that the initiatives are working and some of these are starting to improve wait times.’
Responding to the PM’s interview, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said Mr Sunak had shown himself to be ‘completely out of touch with the NHS’.
He said, “He couldn’t even say whether he used the NHS, let alone tell the country what he was going to do to stop the crisis that is currently killing so many people.”
‘As PM he should apologize to the nation for ignoring the warning signs that we were heading towards a crisis.
‘Years of Conservative Party chaos have taken their toll. Bills are skyrocketing, taxes are being raised and our precious public services are crumbling before our eyes.’
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