14/05/2012 10:13 BST

Andrew Lansley Heckled By Nurses Over NHS Reforms

Nurses heckled and laughed at Health Secretary Andrew Lansley on Monday after he claimed clinical staffing levels in the NHS had increased.

The Health Secretary was laughed at by members of the audience at the RCN annual conference in Harrogate after saying nurses should tell superiors if staffing levels were not safe.

Mr Lansley was speaking after a Royal College of Nursing (RCN) study warned more than 60,000 frontline jobs in the NHS, including those of nurses, were at risk because of spending cuts, with almost half already gone.

The RCN said 61,000 posts were at risk of being slashed across the health service, including nursing and other jobs, with 26,000 already lost in the two years to April.

The loss of so many jobs showed the "weakness" of Government pledges to protect the front line, according to the RCN.

But Mr Lansley insisted it is managers and administrators who have lost their jobs rather than clinical staff.

Some in the crowd shouted "liar" after the Health Secretary claimed clinical staffing levels had increased on his watch.

He said: "The number of staff in the NHS has gone down but actually the number of clinical staff has gone up.

"The number of managers and administrators has gone down. We do need to sustain that progress to get resources to the front line to ensure that they are owned and used by clinicians.

"Clinical leadership is at the heart of the process of reform across the NHS."

Monday's conference was not the first time Lansley has been confronted by the public over his controversial Health and Social Care bill reforming parts of the NHS.

June Hautot, protesting outside Number 10 in February, called Lansley a "gutless liar" after a confrontation with the Tory MP caught by television cameras.

In March, a doctor at Hampstead's Royal Free Hospital followed Lansley down a hall, shouting after him: "Your bill is rubbish and you know it."