Jeremy Hunt condemned for saying NHS doctors 'knew there would be pressurised moments' when they signed up
Jeremy Hunt has come under fire after saying NHS doctors “knew there would be pressurised moments” when they decided on a career in medicine.
The Health Secretary also warned about funding for the health service, saying that "money matters" and the NHS will need "significantly more" in the future to deal with an ageing population.
His remarks came as new figures showed hospitals had their worst ever performance against the four-hour target for treatment in Accident & Emergency units.
Overall 77.1% of arrivals were treated within the four-hour timeframe, down from the previous record low of 77.3% recorded in December.
Speaking to ITV News, Mr Hunt suggested doctors should expect a certain degree of pressure in their work, but acknowledged the current situation was "not sustainable".
"First of all I completely recognise the pressures they’ve been going through. When they signed up to go into medicine, they knew there would be pressurised moments. But, I also recognise it’s not sustainable and not fair to say to them this is going to repeated year in year out," he said.
"I think we’re beyond the time when words from me will make a difference, they need actions. Things that are changing to reduce those pressures that we face."
He admitted that 2017/18 had been the worst winter in the history of the health service, saying: "In terms of pressures on the system I think it probably is the worst ever because we’ve got very high levels of demand. The highest ever. We’ve got the flu outbreak, while it’s not an epidemic, it is the worst we have had for many years.
"Despite that, performance is broadly the same as last year. We haven’t seen the deterioration we might have expected. I think that’s because of very hard work by NHS staff.”
The remarks prompted an outraged response from Shadow Health minister Justin Madders, who said:
“This startling admission shows how entirely out of touch with the reality of the NHS winter crisis Jeremy Hunt is.
“It follows the Prime Minister’s bizarre comment last month that cancelled operations were ‘part of the plan’ for the NHS and that ‘nothing is perfect’.
“The truth is that our hardworking NHS staff provide the best possible care in the face of unprecedented pressures and are all that stand between the current crisis and total collapse. Almost eight years of sustained underfunding of our health and care services have resulted in the worst winter crisis on record, with almost 140,000 patients stuck in the back of ambulances for over 30 minutes. Saying these are ‘pressured moments’ totally underestimates the scale of the problem."
Elsewhere in the interview Mr Hunt called for a longer-term approach to NHS funding, and stressed that over the next ten years the Government would need to put "significantly more" money in.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt that going forward the NHS is going to need more money. In ten years’ time we will have a million more over 75s in our country and we want to be able to promise the British people that every single old person is going to be treated with the highest standards of dignity and respect.
"We give the NHS resources it needs to deal with the pressures we have and we recognise in that equation - and I’m going to say this now - money matters. Money is an important part of that but so is the workforce and so is the way you deliver care. The safety of care. The government is on the same page as your viewers. We do understand those pressures."
However he argued that a short-term boost in funding would not necessarily have much of an impact on care.
"It isn’t just about the Chancellor finding more money, it’s also about the long term capacity of the system.
"The Chancellor could give me £4bn next year but if I don’t have the additional doctors and nurses to spend that on, it won’t make a huge difference to patients."