Jeremy Hunt among most passionate NHS advocates ever, says Theresa May

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt is among the UK's 'most passionate advocates' for NHS doctors, nurses and patients, prime minister Theresa May told the Conservative party conference today.

The prime minister told Conservative party members that the government had put ‘record investment into the NHS’ over the past six years, investing £10bn since the last election.

But doctors' leaders hit out at the claims, saying Mrs May's speech was not in touch with reality.

The BMA criticised the prime minister for failing to mention the ‘funding crisis engulfing the NHS’, and said the government's actual extra investment in the NHS was less than half the figure she claimed. 

Mrs May went on to challenge Labour's claim that it is the ‘party of the NHS’, asserting that this year was one of the most successful yet for the NHS.

NHS funding

This was largely in tribute to Mr Hunt, she said, who she described as ‘one of the most passionate advocates for patients and doctors’.

‘This year more patients are being treated, and more operations are being carried out, by more doctors and more nurses than ever before,’ she said.

‘That’s a tribute to everyone who works in the NHS. But also to one man – Jeremy Hunt – who is one of the most passionate advocates for patients and for the doctors, nurses and others who work in our health service that I have ever known.

‘So let’s have no more of Labour’s absurd belief that they have a monopoly on compassion. Let’s put an end to their sanctimonious pretence of moral superiority.

‘Let’s make clear that they have given up the right to call themselves the party of the NHS, the party of the workers, the party of public servants.

She went on to add: ‘Let us take this opportunity to show that we, the Conservative Party, truly are the party of the workers – the party of public servants – the party of the NHS.’

NHS pressure

BMA chairman Dr Mark Porter said: ‘There is a real disconnect between the rhetoric of Theresa May’s speech, and the reality facing the NHS.

‘Nothing in today’s speech will address the concerns of patients, the public and frontline NHS staff on how the NHS will rise to the enormous challenges facing it.

‘The prime minister claims that performance in the NHS is up, but the truth is that patients are waiting longer, access to services is being hit due to staffing shortages, and morale amongst front-line staff is at a low.’

He said the speech had ‘failed to mention’ the funding crisis facing the NHS. ‘While Theresa May talked about injecting £10bn of new money into the NHS, our own funding report showed the real increase in health spending is less than half that.

‘As for the rest, for the largest part of the unmet need, the plan relies on what have been called "efficiency savings". We’ve seen what this tired euphemism actually means – they are year-on-year cuts to funding that have driven almost every acute trust in England into deficit. In total, more than £2bn in deficit, a 20-fold increase in two years.’

‘Our health service needs action, not words. We urgently need the government to draw up a long-term strategy for the NHS that addresses the fundamental workload and funding challenges that are overwhelming our health service. Failure to invest now will result in a disaster in the future both financially and in terms of patient health and care.’

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