Falling nurse numbers demonstrate neither patients nor the NHS are safe under the coalition, Labour has claimed.
Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said the number of nurses had dropped by more than 7,000 since May 2010 - and highlighted last week’s Care Quality Commission “State of Care” report during health questions in the Commons.
But health secretary Jeremy Hunt defended the government’s record, insisting the ratio of nurses to beds had improved - and said Labour would have cut health spending.
Mr Burnham said: “Last week official statistics revealed 7,134 nursing jobs have been lost under the coalition, almost 1,000 in the last month under your watch.
“The very next day the Care Quality Commission warned 16% of hospitals in England are not meeting the CQC standard for adequate staffing levels.
“Isn’t this prima facie evidence the NHS and patients are not safe in your hands?
“Will you urgently intervene to stop the job losses?”
Mr Hunt rebutted: “The reason the CQC made its shocking investigation into the state of care in our country is because this government introduced dignity and nutrition inspections, which never happened when you were secretary of state.
“You talked about numbers employed in the NHS, let’s look at them. There’s been a 2% decline in the number of nurses, yes. But an increase in the nurse to bed ratio.
“There’s been a 4% increase in the number of midwives, a 5% increase in the number of doctors and more than 50% increase in the number of health visitors, which went down when you were in office.
“And how much worse would those numbers have been if we had the cut in NHS funding you wanted?”