Speaking on ITV’s Peston, she said someone is “much more likely” to be treated by an immigrant working in the NHS than they are likely to be “behind one in the queue for treatment”.
Hunt actually allocated no additional funding for NHS England in the Autumn Statement, rejecting calls for £1bn of extra cash in November.
He said: “It’s all very well to say the absolute sum is going up, but per person, it’s not rising enough is it, spending in the NHS?”
She replied: “Well, on the immigration point, I think it’s worth reflecting that you are much more likely in the NHS to be treated by an immigrant than you are to be behind one in the queue for treatment.”
Around 265,000 out of 1.5 million NHS staff had a non-British nationality in June last year – that works out to nearly one in five out of all NHS staff in England, according to a House of Commons research briefing.
“That’s not a popular point of view in your party,” Peston laughed.
“No, not a popular point of view, but it’s fact,” Nokes said with a smile. “And we owe a great deal to those immigrants who come to the UK and work in the NHS.”
The Tories have been trying to crack down on migration, especially after record numbers came to the country last year – 672,000 more people entered the UK than emigrated from it in the 12 months to June.
But, despite this dig at her own party, Nokes did say elsewhere in the programme that she believed it was possible for the Conservatives to reunite ahead of the next general election.
“Most of us have come to the conclusion we have to pull together, we have to be headed in the same direction,” she said.
She said she was feeling more “optimistic” than she was even a few months ago.