Theresa May has acknowledged more needs to be done for the NHS before claiming that funding is not the sole issue facing the service.
The Prime Minister added thousands of cancelled operations were “part of the plan” amid concerns over the NHS in England’s struggles to cope with mounting winter pressures.
Mrs May also sidestepped questions on long-term funding as she faced Andrew Marr, who said he would not be interviewing her if he had experienced the same delays following his stroke as others have encountered.
The pair traded blows over the state of the health service’s finances while Labour warned any promotion of Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt would be a “betrayal” of patients.
Mrs May, speaking to BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show, reiterated her claim that the NHS has been better prepared for this year’s winter pressures before adding: “You mentioned operations being postponed – that was part of the plan.
“Of course we want to ensure that those operations can be reinstated as soon as possible, but it’s about making sure that those who most urgently need care are able to get that treatment when they need it.”
Mr Marr raised the case of a woman having a stroke who waited in an ambulance for an hour and a further four hours before she saw a doctor.
He said: “If I’d been waiting for five hours before I’d seen a doctor after my stroke I would not be here talking to you. This is about life and death and up and down the country people are having horrendous experiences of the NHS.”
Mrs May did not comment on the individual case, but said: “If we look at what is happening across the NHS, what we see is that actually the NHS is delivering for more people, it is treating more people and more people are being seen within the four hours every day than has been a few years ago.
“But of course nothing’s perfect and there is more for us to do.”
Theresa May speaks to Andrew Marr (Jeff Overs/PA)
On funding, it was suggested to Mrs May that she had done nothing to address increased pressure on the social care system.
The PM replied: “Well yes, we have done something about it, Andrew. I’m sorry, you’re wrong in that.
“We have put extra funding into the social care system and we have worked with hospitals and with local authorities to identify how we can reduce those delayed discharges, ie patients being kept in hospital when they shouldn’t be.”
Mrs May said the Government is working on its long-term plans for social care but would not be drawn on whether there is a need for a brave and radical look at how the NHS is funded.
Asked about whether she agreed with Mr Hunt’s suggestion of a 10-year funding plan, Mrs May replied: “Of course what we’re operating on at the moment is the five-year forward view for the NHS which is the forward view that the NHS themselves came forward with.
“They brought those proposals together.”
Pressed further on cash, Mrs May said: “You keep talking about the money but actually what you also need to look at is how the NHS works, how it operates.”
Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth said of the PM: “She hasn’t got a plan to get those people off the trolleys and corridors.”
He added to the same programme: “Her only plan apparently is to promote this Health Secretary. They should be demoting this Health Secretary.
“If she promotes this Health Secretary tomorrow it’s a betrayal of those 75,000 people in the back of ambulances.”
Franz Ferdinand drummer Paul Thomson, performing at the end of the programme, appeared to show his support for the health service by wearing a t-shirt with the NHS’s logo above the Nike tick.