Jacob Rees Mogg has joined the chorus of voices calling for an end to cutbacks to the NHS.
The prominent Tory backbencher has said it will be “very hard to continue” with health service austerity in 2018 “however much there are limited resources”.
The Brexiteer told Conservative Home the winter flu outbreak was putting hospitals under unprecedented strain and the Prime Minister could not avoid taking action.
It comes after repeated calls by the Labour Party for May to release more money and even Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has said that Vote Leave’s pledge to hand the NHS £350m-a-week actually underestimated the scale of cash needed.
The backbencher said housing was key for May in 2018, but added: “The other obvious area is the health service, which is clearly under strain during the winter flu outbreak but in reality austerity in the NHS for 7 years of 1% real increases which is against what has happened in its previous history and is going to be very hard to continue with, however much there are limited resources.”
Doctors and nurses have told HuffPost UK of unprecedented pressures on A&E, including patients waiting 10 hours to be seen by a doctor and stressed staff using their own hospital’s mental health services.
Hospitals were also forced to cancel around 55,000 operations to cope with demand.
Johnson said that the UK’s weekly gross contribution to the EU would rise to £438m, and that the NHS should get extra cash when Britain left.
Rees Mogg also said the NHS should look to use its power to fine councils where a lack of social care beds led to bed blocking at hospitals.
It comes after Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt had responsibility for social care added to his brief in May’s reshuffle.
Rees Mogg said this had previously been viewed as an “aggressive approach towards councils” but, given the scale of the NHS crisis, government “may want to put a little pressure on” local authorities to provide social care.
The influential Tory backbencher also said the Conservatives should not rule out building more homes on green belt land, despite the fierce opposition it may face from Tory associations at a local level.
It comes amid escalating demand for homes, with many young people locked out of the housing market due to a lack of supply and affordable housing.
Rees Mogg said some green belt was “pretty ugly scrub land”, suggesting that not all of it should remain protected from development.
The North East Somerset MP said “the mood of the country has changed” to favour more housebuilding, but added he may even have problems convincing those in his own constituency that building on green belt was part of the solution.
He said: “I recognise that even in my own constituency we are going to face these difficult choices”.