Jeremy Hunt today asked to be allowed to continue running the health service despite admitting the Government is missing targets on emergency waiting times and operations and more doctors are needed.
Appearing on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show this morning, the Health Secretary – who has been in his job since 2012 – admitted it is “not acceptable” that the NHS had missed its A&E waiting times target for more than two years.
He also said he wanted to see nurses pay increase, but was evasive as to why some in the profession are being forced to use food banks – instead pointing to the fact the average nurse wage is higher than the average UK worker pay.
Labour said Hunt’s interview was an “admission of failure”.
When asked NHS England’s target that 95% of patients should be seen within 4 hours of arriving in A&E, Hunt replied: “We haven’t hit it for over two years. It’s not acceptable. We have a plan to get back to that standard.”
Hunt also conceded the NHS had missed its target for 92% of patients receiving treatment with 18 weeks of referral by a GP - the actual figure is 90%.
Marr pressed Hunt on pay in the NHS, after Theresa May told him last week there are “complex reasons” for nurses using food banks.
He replied: “Well let’s look at the facts: the minimum a nurse can be paid in this country is £22,000, £27,000 in inner London. That assumes they do no night shifts or antisocial hours, which in practice most of them will.
“The average pay for nurses is £31,000, which is more than the national average.”
After Marr said nurses’ pay had fallen 11% in real terms, Hunt replied: “Well we don’t agree with those numbers, but still they’re getting paid more than the national average.
“But is that enough considering the brilliant work they do? I think many people would say that we want to pay them more. And I think they do an incredible job.”
“So if you want more money to go into the NHS, and this Government recognises we will need to put more money into the NHS and social care system because of the pressures we face, then the question is how you get there.”
Responding to the interview, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary John Ashworth, said: “We’ve now had an admission of failure straight from the horse’s mouth: the Tory-made A&E crisis is simply ‘not acceptable.’
“Jeremy Hunt this morning was forced to admit to the British public that the 4-hour A&E target has not been hit in over two years.
“This shameful statistic is symptomatic of the crisis that the Tories have left our NHS in. Britain cannot afford another five years of Tory failure.
“Only Labour will give the NHS the resources it needs to deliver the service patients deserve.”