Andy Burnham has accused Theresa May of “misrepresenting” a quote of his she used at Prime Minister’s Questions today to dodge embarrassment over social care funding.
The former Shadow Health Secretary slammed May for recounting a plea he made in 2013 to cut hospital beds.
May sought to attack Labour’s record on the NHS, saying on Wednesday:
“Let us just look at Labour’s policy before the last election, because before the last election, the right hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham), a former Labour shadow Health Secretary, said the following: ‘What I’d cut…are hospital beds’.
“Labour policy: cut hospital beds.”
A visibly annoyed Burnham stood up to be called to ask a question by the Speaker after being singled out, but was unsuccessful.
Speaking later to The Huffington Post UK, though, Burnham said May had taken the line “completely out of context”.
The full quote, from an interview he gave to the Fabian Society four years ago, calls for hospital beds to be scrapped to invest the money in social care. It reads:
“Partly what I’d cut to pay for my policy are hospital beds. I’m very clear that we could get much better results for the current £120bn we put into health and adult social care if we were to treat it as one budget.”
Asked if he believed the PM had cut his quote short because it would have drawn attention to the current accusations social care is underfunded by her own government, Burham said: “Yes.”
He continued: “I think she purposefully muddied the water. She tried to claim that her policy now is what I was saying. And she tried to get the House on her side.
“It’s all about show and all about tit-for-tat in the House of Commons, but the debate is more serious than that - it needs more than that.
“I have long argued that there are too many older people in hospital and it’s not the right place for them, and it just doesn’t make sense to fail to spend a few pounds in people’s homes to end up spending thousands of pounds as people end up in hospital.
“And, yes, it’s PMQs, isn’t it. I mean she clearly misrepresented my position - that’s not the first time that’s happened to me; but on an issue as serious as this, where real debate is needed, I don’t think the Prime Minister helps the conduct of that debate or people’s understanding of the issue.”
May has faced criticism for Whitehall funding shortfalls in social care - with her own local Tory council warning constituents would face a council tax hike to cover costs.
She hit back in December last year, saying some areas have managed to cope with tight budgets by better managing their money to help the elderly with care at home, avoiding delays in getting them from hospital into the community.