Almost 6,000 nursing jobs have been lost under the coalition government, with accident and emergency departments on the brink of a “dangerous winter”, Labour’s health spokesman Andy Burnham has warned.
The shadow health secretary has called for an end to the job cuts and urged the government to ensure A&Es have enough staff to provide safe care during the winter.
New figures suggest a further 450 nursing jobs have been cut, bringing the total close to 6,000 since May 2010, Mr Burnham told MPs.
The Labour frontbencher also accused health secretary Jeremy Hunt of using diversion tactics to disguise problems within the NHS, with the latest resulting in immigration being blamed.
But Mr Hunt said we would not listen to anyone from Labour when it came to providing safe care for patients.
Speaking during health questions, Mr Burnham told Mr Hunt: “New figures this morning show a further 450 nursing jobs have been cut, taking the total close to 6,000 under this government. But what were [the government] doing last night? Voting against safe staffing levels in the Lords.
“Will you now listen to the experts, stop the job cuts and take immediate action to ensure all A&Es have enough staff to provide safe care this winter?”
Mr Hunt replied: “We’ll listen to no-one on that side of the Commons when it comes to safe care for patients in the NHS.
“They (Labour) presided over a system where whistle-blowers were bullied, patients were ignored and regulators felt leaned on if they tried to speak up about poor care. That is a record to be ashamed of.”
Earlier, Mr Burnham said Mr Hunt had been in post for a year and the health secretary’s style was “everything is always someone else’s fault”.
Mr Burnham continued: “Lazy GPs, uncaring nurses, the last government and today more diversion tactics. Now it’s immigration to blame.
“But there’s an inconvenient truth that gets clearer day by day and you can’t spin this away - A&E is getting worse and worse and worse on your watch. We’ve had ambulance queues, a treatment tent in a car park, now police cars doubling for ambulances with a patient dying on the backseat.
“The NHS stands on the brink of a dangerous winter. Will you today set out in detail what you personally are doing to avert crisis?”
Mr Hunt replied: “Can I welcome you back to your place, it’s a great pleasure to see you there even if it’s not entirely what [Labour leader Ed Miliband]wanted.
“With respect to A&E, if you are shocked that I breached the A&E target for one quarter last year, you’ll want to make a full apology for the fact that you breached the A&E target for two quarters when you were health secretary.”
Mr Burnham countered that Mr Hunt’s “complacent spin” is no good to the NHS.
He added: “If you want to compare records let’s do that. Under me 98% of people were seen within four hours, under you over one million people in the last year waiting more than four hours in A&E. Not only a winter crisis but the first summer A&E crisis in living memory.”
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