Hunt 'open to discussions' on how to find 'significantly more funding' for NHS

Jeremy Hunt has insisted he is willing to hold talks about how to ensure "significantly more funding" is found for the NHS.

The Health Secretary reiterated his desire for a 10-year plan for the health service, adding a national consensus needs to be built.

But he claimed Labour is not interested in being part of such discussions, which posed difficulties.

Mr Hunt's remarks came in an Opposition-led debate on the NHS winter crisis, which shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth claimed was "entirely predictable and entirely preventable".

He also questioned why the Health Secretary was still in post given that doctors and nurses have "lost confidence" in him.

Mr Hunt warned attempts to "politicise" the pressures on the NHS are a "serious mistake", and dismissed suggestions that the health service is "on its knees".

Speaking in the Commons, Liberal Democrat former health minister Norman Lamb alluded to suggestions of a royal commission to examine NHS funding.

He said: "The Health Secretary complains about the politicisation of the NHS but 90 colleagues from across the House, including very many on his own side, are offering a different approach - a mature conversation, cross-party, to come up with a solution.

"Lord Saatchi, Baroness Cavendish, Nick Timothy are now arguing for the same thing.

"Will he now embrace that civilised approach that comes up with a consensus for the country about how we secure a health and care system?"

Mr Hunt replied: "I have said publicly I think as we come to the end of the five-year forward view we do need to look to find a consensus for the next stage for the NHS.

"We will need significantly more funding in the years ahead.

"We need to build a national consensus as to how we're going to find that funding, and my own view is we should try and do that for a 10-year period - not a five-year period.

"So I'm open to all discussions from colleagues about the best ways to do that.

"But I'm afraid we heard earlier from the shadow health secretary that (Labour) is not interested in being part of those discussions and I'm afraid that illustrates just how difficult it is to make a consensus."

Mr Hunt also defended the Government's preparations for the NHS this winter, adding A&E performance in 2017 stabilised.

Labour's Paula Sherriff (Dewsbury) asked: "Does he think that patients being treated in cleaning cupboards, six patients in four-bed bays without lockers, curtains or call bells, is a sign of good preparation for the winter crisis?"

Mr Hunt replied: "It is completely unacceptable."

But he also accused Ms Sherriff of running down the NHS, to which the Labour MP shouted: "Never."

Ms Sherriff, speaking later in the debate, said she had heard the details about such conditions for patients from "local hospitals in recent days".

She went on: "They're actually being given hand bells or told to ask the patient next to them to ring the bell should there be an emergency."

Tory MP Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford) also said he would be writing to Mr Hunt about how hospitals which serve his constituency are "systemically underfunded".

For Labour, Mr Ashworth earlier said of Mr Hunt: "Isn't the truth that doctors and nurses have lost confidence in him, patients have lost confidence in him, the Prime Minister it seems has lost confidence in him?

"He fights for his own job but he won't fight for the NHS."

MPs approved Labour's non-binding motion which expressed "concern at the effect on patient care of the closure of 14,000 hospital beds since 2010" and which calls for the Government to "increase cash limits for the current year" so hospitals can reschedule elective operations.

The Conservatives abstained on the motion.

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