The health secretary was on Monday accused of allowing the health service to return to the “dark ages” after it was revealed last week that A&E departments shut their doors to patients more than 140 times in December.
Figures showed a third of health trusts in England had issued alerts that they needed urgent action to cope, the Press Association reported.
Yet Hunt said the issues amounted to just “a few serious problems” affecting no more than “one or two hospitals”.
But here are seven experts and patients’ groups who have said there is a wider crisis in the NHS.
1. Mike Adamson, chief executive of the British Red Cross
Adamson has defended the Red Cross’ earlier description of the NHS as being in a “humanitarian crisis” after Prime Minister Theresa May slammed it over the claim.
Writing in The Times on Monday, he said: “These are people in crisis and in recent weeks we have started talking about this as a humanitarian crisis. We don’t say this lightly and we have a duty to say it.
“We are part of a worldwide humanitarian network and our fundamental principle of humanity states we must help to ‘prevent and alleviate human suffering wherever it may be found’.
“This humanitarian crisis needs urgent action. In considering making this statement, I went back and looked closely at the definition of a humanitarian crisis: It refers to the scale and depth of need facing a population. In this case we are seeing large numbers of vulnerable people facing a threat to their health, safety or well-being.”
2. The Royal College Of Emergency Medicine
The Royal College of Emergency Medicine is reportedly in talks with ministers over new funding to alleviate a “long-term NHS crisis”.
Health Service Journal reported that senior medics from the Royal College have engaged in discussions with the government with a view to “investing significant upfront funding” in a plan to help out emergency departments.
Meanwhile the Royal College’s Twitter account on Monday shared links with headlines such as: “Beds crisis means we choose who lives, say doctors” and “Columnist left on trolley in A&E corridor for three hours”.
3. Dr Taj Hassan, associate medical director at Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust
Dr Hassan, who is also president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, told Health Service Journal: “Going into winter we were in the worst-prepared position that we have ever been ... in terms of existing performance and the amount of intended investment, (with) the existing staffing levels in emergency departments and the social care crisis clearly identified as major issues.”
4. Professor Chris Ham, chief executive of the King’s Fund
Ham, the boss of English health charity the King’s Fund, wrote in a letter to The Times on Monday: “With social care, the number of older people receiving publicly funded care has fallen by more than 400,000 since 2009/10, while the health system is buckling under the strain of trying to meet rising demand and still maintain standards. A new settlement for health and social care is urgently needed.”
5. Nick Hulme, chief executive of Colchester and Ipswich hospital trusts
Hulme, who leads care in hospitals in north Essex and Suffolk, told Health Service Journal: “It’s unprecedented. I’ve not seen anything like this in 37 years in the health service. There is always a hangover from Christmas and New Year but this has been absolutely relentless [in demand and acuity of patients].”
6. Katherine Murphy, Chief Executive of The Patients Association
Murphy, boss of the independent Patients Association, said: “Worryingly, this year there has been a noticeable clamour of voices from health and social care professionals that the workload is unmanageable. Likewise, even before the Christmas period, Hospitals were making announcements encouraging patients to avoid A&E and seek alternative options instead.
“Patients will be rightly very concerned about this and what it means for them and their families. We believe that more needs to be done to highlight the alternative options to attending A&E, including promoting use of community pharmacists.
“We are calling on the Government to make sure that community and hospital care services have the necessary funding during peak periods and that a national staffing strategy is introduced to ensure there are enough healthcare professionals able to treat patients in need.”
7. Joyce Robins, Patient Concern
Robins, of advocacy group Patient Concern, told The Sun that new figures showing thirst and hunger cause 856 deaths in the NHS a year represented a tragedy linked to overworked staff.
She said: “Every one of these deaths is a tragedy. Hospital wards are full and staff are run off their feet looking after so many patients it is impossible to give them the care they need.
“Patients will need help eating or drinking but are being neglected.”