04 July 2023

Sunak says striking NHS staff make promise to cut wait times ‘more challenging’

04 July 2023

Rishi Sunak blamed striking NHS staff for making it “more challenging” to fulfil his promise of bringing down waiting lists during a visit to a London hospital.

Shortly after taking questions from the Commons Liaison Committee on Tuesday, the prime minister visited Evelina Children’s Hospital, central London, where he met with staff and served cake to young patients.

The NHS Big Tea came ahead of the health service’s 75th anniversary on Wednesday.

At one point during a conversation with staff, one of them told Mr Sunak they ‘hoped’ the NHS would have more anniversaries in the future.

Mr Sunak said he and the Government were doing “everything we can” to support the NHS and promised that his long-term workforce plan announced last week would make sure they got “a lot more colleagues”.

When asked by broadcasters whether the decision by junior doctors to extend strike action until January 2024 would impact on his pledge to cut waiting times, Mr Sunak said: “Clearly, industrial action by other clinical staff does make it more challenging to bring down waiting lists.

“I think everyone can see the economic context that we’re in and the necessity for the Government to make responsible decisions in that context, to bring down inflation.

“No one can doubt our commitment to the NHS – record sums invested alongside a workforce plan last week.”

Earlier on Tuesday, members of the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA) in England voted to extend strike action by another six months – with 96.5% in favour.

The re-ballot result comes as junior doctors prepare to mount a walkout for five days from July 13.

While welcoming the NHS Staff Council, which represents more than one million workers, having accepted a pay offer, Mr Sunak added: “We’ve already had half a million people’s care be impacted by industrial action and I don’t think that’s right.”

The Prime Minister’s visit, in which he thanked staff for their hard work and said it had been a “difficult” couple of years for them, came as it emerged that the Met Police had reopened inquiries into potential Covid breaches at Conservative Campaign Headquarters and in Parliament during lockdown.

The Met said video evidence brought to their attention had led them to re-open their enquiries.

Last month a video emerged of a party held at Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) on December 14 2020 while Covid restrictions were in place, with footage obtained by the Sunday Mirror appearing to show Conservative staff dancing and joking about lockdown rules.

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