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Source: Labour List UK

© UK Parliament / Jessica Taylor

The NHS took centre stage at Prime Minister’s Questions today as Jeremy Corbyn pressed Boris Johnson on waiting times, the government’s funding bill for the health service, and social care.

The Labour leader asked Johnson to “let the British people know why after almost ten years of Tory government, patients are waiting longer for essential NHS care, whether it’s in A&Es, on waiting lists or for a GP appointment?”

Johnson replied that his government is introducing a bill that would introduce a legal obligation on ministers to fund the NHS with an additional £33.9bn a year by 2024.

The Labour leader pointed out that the number of patients waiting for more than four hours is “at its highest on record for the second month in a row”. Focusing specifically on cancer treatment, he asked: “How many more patients will face are life-threatening delays because our NHS is understaffed an underfunded?”

Johnson admitted that NHS waiting times “indeed unacceptable”. He added: “That is why we’re investing in 50,000 more nurses. That’s why we’re investing in 6,000 GPs. And that is why this government is investing record sums in the NHS. We will get those waiting lists down.”

The MP for Islington North pointed out that 20,000 of the 50,000 nurses referred to by the Tory leader “already work for the NHS”.

He went on to highlight the case of the 92 year-old RAF veteran in Leicester, who had to wait 12 hours on a trolley because there were no beds available. He asked the Prime Minister to apologise and to explain why “over 2,000 patients had to wait more than 12 hours before they could get into a hospital bed last month alone”.

Sidestepping the apology, Johnson answered that we all have “every sympathy for people who have a bad and unacceptable experience in the NHS. And we all share that. On the other hand most people in this country, most patients in the NHS have a fantastic experience”.

Johnson said: “The hospital he mentions is one of those which – as he knows – we are rebuilding under this programme. 40 new hospitals, 20 upgraded, under this government.” Corbyn replied that “the problem is the Prime Minister promised 40 hospitals – in reality it was 20, then it became six”.

Turning to the issue of social care, Corbyn said: “It has now been almost three years since the government promised a green paper on social care, and seven months since the Prime Minister himself stood on the steps of Downing Street and said he had prepared a clear plan to fix the crisis in social care. Well, what’s the hold up? Where’s the plan?”

The reply from Johnson was that he does “intend to begin with cross-party talks”, adding that “with the help and co-operation of the Labour Party and other parties in this house, we will go ahead with a plan for social care”.

Corbyn urged Johnson to take a look at the 2019 Labour manifesto, in which he claimed his party had a “very clear” plan of free personal care, more funding and support for carers. Returning to the NHS funding bill, he said: “All this gimmick means is even longer waiting lists, more delays for cancer patients and more A&Es bursting at the seams.”

The Labour leader went on to say: “If he’s really committed to fixing the crisis his government has created over the last decade, he should end the empty rhetoric and back out proposals to give the NHS the funding it needs rather than putting into law an insufficiency of funding.”

Johnson replied that he was “delighted” to see the Labour leader still fighting on the last manifesto and added that it’s pretty clear what the public thought of it, before he ended by saying that the the Tories “are the party of the NHS”.

The NHS Funding Bill is being introduced to parliament today and will enshrine in law a minimum spending requirement on NHS revenue from the Treasury over the next four years.

Labour’s health spokesperson said that the it amounts to a “capped expenditure bill guaranteeing in law that the NHS won’t get the resources it needs for the remainder of this parliament”.

MIL OSI United Kingdom