Jeremy Hunt apologises to NHS patients after thousands of operations are delayed
Jeremy Hunt has apologised to patients whose operations have been delayed, as the NHS struggles to cope with winter demand.
Hospitals in England have been ordered to delay thousands of operations with pre-planned procedures and outpatient appointments postponed until 31 January.
According to Sky News the Health Secretary has apologised to those affected, saying the situation is "absolutely not what I want".
But he added that it would allow hospitals to take a "a planned, methodical, thoughtful" approach to dealing with the winter crisis.
Theresa May called the move "disappointing" and "frustrating" but said that the "NHS has been better prepared for this winter than ever before".
“We will ensure that those operations are put back as soon as possible and once again I say that NHS staff are doing a fantastic job,” she added.
This comes after the Conservative chair of the influential Health Select Committee urged the Prime Minister and the Chancellor to "get a grip" on the pressures facing the NHS.
Sarah Wollaston, who has practised as a GP herself, told the Today programme: “The point is if you have a very major increase in people who are living longer with complex conditions that produces particular demands on the health system.
"That I think they need to get a better grip on, to understand the sheer scale of the increase in demand across health and social care.”
NHS England announced yesterday it was extending the delay for non-urgent inpatient care to free up capacity for more urgent patients. The procedures affected include operations such as hip and knee replacements.
Tens of thousands of operations and appointments will be affected, although cancer operations and other more pressing procedures will still go ahead.
Earlier Labour blasted Mrs May’s “meaningless and hollow” reassurances about the state of the health service while the Lib Dems said the Tories had been “distracted” by infighting.
Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth said: “Tory underfunding and cuts have left our health service more vulnerable than ever before.
“Jeremy Hunt must urgently tell us how many elective operations he expects to be cancelled and how many more people will be waiting longer in pain and anguish because their scheduled operation has had to be cancelled.”
Lib Dem health spokesperson Baroness Judith Jolly said the Tories “knew winter was coming but have been so distracted by their own internal problems that they have failed both the NHS and the care services.”