The growing Tory rebellion over Theresa May’s Brexit deal has forced her to shelve the launch of a long-term plan for the NHS, HuffPost UK has learned.
According to NHS England sources, the prime minister had been expected to unveil the much-anticipated 10-year plan for the health service at a hospital in Leeds on Monday, with Health Secretary Matt Hancock also pencilled in to attend.
But with May and her team focused on whipping up Conservative support for her divisive Brexit deal, the PM’s announcement has been put on ice until after Parliament’s key vote, scheduled for December 11.
With the Tories having come under repeated fire for suggesting there will be a “Brexit dividend” for the NHS, there are fears that including the NHS plan in the run up to the “meaningful vote” could risk linking new cash for the health service directly to Brexit and May’s deal.
The long-term strategy – which will see health officials set out how they intend to invest freshly-boosted NHS budgets – is now expected to be revealed until just before Christmas “at best”.
A copy of Number 10’s plan to sell May’s Brexit deal to the public ahead of the vote – as seen by POLITICO on Wednesday – showed that she will be promoting the “money” aspect of her plan on Monday.
Labour’s Shadow Health Minister Justin Madders said: “Everyone was expecting the NHS Plan next week but it now looks like either the Brexit shambles has delayed it or Matt Hancock simply hasn’t finished writing it.
“With doctors warning we’re heading into the worst winter ever, Matt Hancock is again letting patients down by not getting these NHS proposals published.”
Meanwhile, a Labour source said the move was further evidence of “a government in meltdown that can’t even stay focussed on the NHS as it enters its most difficult period.”
A spokesperson for Number 10 said: “Details for the long-term plan will be announced in due course.”
May faces an uphill battle in order to push her Brexit deal through the House of Commons, with as many as 90 of her own MPs expected to vote it down.
The DUP - whom the Conservatives usually rely on for a majority in Parliament, but who oppose the PM’s proposed deal – also pose a serious threat.