Prime Minister David Cameron has said accident and emergency units are 0.3% short of meeting their 95% target of patients waiting four hours maximum before being seen.
The PM has admitted the NHS is under pressure and suffering as a result of the influx of patients visiting accident and emergency units.
David Cameron acknowledged that the government needs to respond however he argued the health service could be stronger if the Conservatives alone were in charge of a buoyant economy.
He was responding to questions from the Ed Milliband, the Labour party leader. Milliband accused Cameron of running down the NHS to breaking point, and said, ‘The crisis in A&E is a symptom of the crisis in elderly care and in relation to getting to see a GP. One of the biggest problems is one in four people is unable to get to see a GP within a week.’
He then pointed out that Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, admitted to taking his children to a hospital emergency unit at the weekend when a GP appointment was unavailable.
‘What does it say about the NHS when the health secretary says he goes to A&E because he can’t get a GP appointment?’ Milliband demanded.
Instead of following usual rhetoric, Cameron instead responded with, ‘What the figures show is yes, the NHS is under pressure … last week 429,000 presented at accident and emergency units across England – that’s 3,000 more patients every day than under the last government. The key thing is what we are going to do to respond to these problems – what we are doing is putting £700m into the NHS this year. We are only able to do that because we have a strong and growing economy. That’s the key, you can only have a strong NHS if you have a strong economy.’
Milliband hit back with, ‘The truth is, we introduced evening and weekend opening, you cut it. We opened walk-in centres, you shut them. You promised to improve GP access and you haven’t delivered it. It’s happening on your watch. This is exactly the same pattern we saw under the last Tory government. Winter crisis followed by emergency bailout. Isn’t it a damning indictment of your record on the NHS that we are back to those days?’
The NHS is battling harsh criticism as it struggles to get back on its feet following reports of missed targets and staff shortages. As the elections approach and opposing parties offer varying strategies for what the NHS could do next, the NHS continues to explore options such as partial privatisation and cuts.