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Jeremy Hunt came under fire today at Health Questions in the House of Commons from Labour’s frontbench health team, as the NHS faces its toughest time of year.
At Health Questions, the Government rejected Labour’s warning on waiting times at A&Es and ambulance queued at hospital doors.
Even before the cold weather hit, there was growing evidence that Ministers have left the NHS unprepared. Last week, NHS figures showed A&E performance dipped below 90%.
Data published by the Department of Health revealed that, across England, 114 NHS trusts failed to meet the target of 95% of patients being seen within four hours at major A&E units. Nationally, the NHS has failed to meet the 95% A&E target since September 2012.
In addition, the healthcare regulator the Care Quality Commission last week identified 26 NHS hospitals and providers, including the London Ambulance Service, which had inadequate staffing levels. Staffing shortages across the NHS have left A&E departments over-stretched and under severe pressure.
A Labour Freedom of Information request also revealed that ambulance services are being disrupted. The number of ambulances in London left waiting outside hospitals for more than half an hour has increased by two-thirds in the last year. The response from the London Ambulance Service also confirmed that the target for responding to the most serious call-outs is being missed.
Andy Burnham MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, said in the House of Commons:
“As winter bites, the NHS is facing its toughest time of the year. But there is mounting evidence that the Secretary of State has left it unprepared.
“For 105 of Jeremy Hunt’s 133 days in office, the NHS has missed the Government’s A&E target and, last week, for the first time, it fell below 90% for major A&E units.
“Right now, in A&Es up and down England, there are ambulances stuck in queues outside, patients on trolleys in corridors and people waiting hours on end to be seen. These are the kind figures not seen in the NHS since the bad old days of the mid 1990s.
“Jeremy Hunt likes to blame nurses but it’s time he started accepting responsibility. Will he today ensure that all A&Es in England have enough staff to get safely through the winter?”
Jamie Reed MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Minister, added:
“It's not just Accident and Emergency departments that are crumbling under this Government - ambulance services are in a parlous state as a result of this Government's wasteful and expensive re-organisation.”