Doctors ‘knew there was going to be pressurised moments’ when they went into medicine, but the current situation is ‘not sustainable’, the health secretary has said.
The interview with ITV News comes as official figures released today show that January saw the worst A&E waiting times performance since monthly records began in 2010, with 77.1% of patients being seen within four hours – well below the 95% target.
Mr Hunt said: ‘I completely recognise the pressures that they have been going through and when they signed up to go into medicine they knew there was going to be pressurised moments.
‘But I also recognise that it is not sustainable and not fair to say to them this is going to be repeated year in, year out.
‘I think we’re beyond the time when words from me will make a difference. What they need to see is action.’
Mr Hunt added that ‘significantly more’ money would need to be spent on the NHS to ensure services could cope with demand.
He said: ‘In terms of pressures on the system I think it probably is the worst ever because we’ve got very high levels of demand.’
He added: ‘We’ve got the flu outbreak which, although it’s not an epidemic, is the worst we’ve had for many years.’
Justin Madders MP, Labour’s shadow health minister, said Mr Hunt’s comments were ‘startling’ and show ‘how entirely out of touch with the reality of the NHS winter crisis Jeremy Hunt is’.
He said: ‘It follows the Prime Minister’s bizarre comment last month that cancelled operations were ‘part of the plan’ for the NHS and that ‘nothing is perfect’.
‘The truth is that our hardworking NHS staff provide the best possible care in the face of unprecedented pressures and are all that stand between the current crisis and total collapse.
‘Almost eight years of sustained underfunding of our health and care services have resulted in the worst winter crisis on record, with almost 140,000 patients stuck in the back of ambulances for over 30 minutes. Saying these are ‘pressured moments’ totally underestimates the scale of the problem.’