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The Prime Minister is committed to pouring more money into the NHS, health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt confirmed in an interview with The Guardian.
In March, Ms May announced long-term funding plans for the NHS and she will honour her pledge as the national health system turns 70, Mr Hunt stated.
Speaking about the PM in The Guardian interview, Mr Hunt said: ‘She is unbelievably committed. You should not underestimate how committed she is to the NHS. So she is absolutely 100% behind getting this right.
‘I’ve been making the NHS’s case – that we need significant and sustainable funding increases to meet the demographic challenges we face, and the Prime Minister completely appreciates that.’
Mr Hunt added that although he has been asking the PM to reintroduce a 4% annual increase – which NHS enjoyed before the coalition came to power in 2010 – the Treasury is unlike to consider anything above 2%-2.5% as affordable.
He said that the announcement will mark the end of the austerity era 1% annual rises the NHS has received since 2010.
Widespread staff shortages
Mr Hunt said a lack of staff was ‘the biggest priority that we have now. It’s a huge challenge to ramp up our staffing in the NHS.’
He accepted that Britain’s decision to leave the EU had contributed to the NHS’s widespread staff shortages.
Mr Hunt added that the new long-term funding settlement will help the health service recruit more staff to cope with the rising demands that a 1 million rise in the number of over-75s in the next decade will place on the health service.
He also admitted that he is struggling to fulfil his pledge, first made in 2015, to boost the number of GPs in England by 5,000 by 2020.
NHS workforce figures published in May showed that since Mr Hunt’s promise, the NHS has in fact lost 1000 GPs.
‘Patient safety deeply flawed’
Mr Hunt said ‘patient safety in the NHS is still deeply flawed’ despite his efforts to make the NHS the world’s safest healthcare system – a mission that earlier this year landed him a humanitarian award for global leadership on patient safety.
His admissions come after consultants wrote a letter to the PM in January to warn her of ‘patients dying in hospital corridors’ as emergency departments were left unable to cope with winter pressures.
In his interview with the Guardian, Mr Hunt said: ‘[Staff] need to know that, yes, you might have one bad winter but it’s not going to be a permanent [series of] nightmarish winters and it’s not going to be a winter that lasts 12 months of the year, as in Game of Thrones.’
Picture credit: Paul Stuart