Theresa May told MPs during prime minister's questions in the House of Commons that the Red Cross’s claim that the NHS was facing a humanitarian crisis was ‘irresponsible and overblown’.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused the prime minster of ‘being in some degree of denial’ about the crisis. Doctors’ leaders had also warned about the pressure affecting the NHS. ‘If she won’t listen to the Red Cross,' he added, ‘who will she listen to?’
Mr Corbyn said that the government, through sustainability and transformation plans (STPs), was ‘planning to cut one third of all beds in our hospitals’ and that patients lives were at risk. He called on the government to scrap planned cuts to corporation tax to fund the NHS and social care.
Ms May acknowledged there were pressures on the service, but she said 2,500 more people are treated within four hours every day because of additional funding the government had already provided.
BMA chair Dr Mark Porter accused the government of ‘wilfully ignoring the scale of the crisis’ in the NHS.
‘Trying to play down the pressure that services are under shows the prime minister is out of touch with patients and frontline staff who are working flat out under impossible circumstances.
‘Theresa May says she wants a shared society that works for everyone but is in denial about one of the important issues facing our society today – how to secure the future of our health service, which is in a constant state of crisis.
NHS winter crisis
‘Winter pressures are inevitable but we should be able to create a health service that can deal with the inevitable. To do this we need a government that takes the issue seriously, that addresses the funding, capacity and recruitment issues facing the NHS and social care year in, year out, but which are compounded during the winter months.’
The prime minister agreed to meet former Liberal Democrat health minister Norman Lamb MP to discuss his proposals for a cross-party convention to resolve the crisis in health and care. Mr Lamb said there were ‘genuine and real serious concerns’ from NHS staff and patients about the pressures in the service. He called for a cross-party agreement to come up with a long-term settlement for the future of health and care.
The debate came after a scathing report by the National Audit Office warned that government plans for a seven-day GP service were being rolled out despite a lack of evidence that they would be cost-effective.