Theresa May has admitted the NHS has been missing its three major targets, but said the Government’s new 10-year plan would help close the gap.
The Prime Minister said “we’re seeing more people, we’re treating more people”, but that extra demand had made it difficult to reach objectives on treating A&E patients within four hours, making two-month cancer diagnoses, and overall 18-week waiting times.
Speaking to BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show, she said: “We’re slipping against the targets because despite the fact we’re actually doing more, the demand is outstripping that.”
She said that was why the new 10-year proposals were being introduced, as she promised it will cut waste and focus spending on patients.
Mrs May said the NHS long-term plan will help secure the future of the health service, with measures to support people at all stages of life from birth to old age.
But shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth told the same programme: “The Tories have been running down the NHS for nine years, starving it of cash, cutting it back, privatising elements of it, failing to get the staff we need.”
He said the PM was setting out a “10-year plan to clear up the mess she has made”, and “it doesn’t need 10 more years of the Tories, it needs a Labour government to save the NHS”.
The long-term plan will be launched on Monday by NHS England, and Mrs May said it would be a “historic step” for the health service.
The PM, who has promised an extra £20.5 billion a year for the NHS by 2023-24, said the plan would ensure that “every pound is spent in a way that will most benefit patients” to “relieve pressure” on the system.
But speaking to Marr, she was forced to defend against accusations £1 billion had been taken out of public health spending since 2015.
She denied the funding had been cut, saying money was being spent elsewhere on “prevention, treatment and early diagnosis”.
Mrs May said: “What you’re saying is there’s only one way you can address a particular issue, as you may know from the conversations we’ve had over time that is never the case.”
Ahead of the launch of the plan, Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “We need to see a big shift in the way that health services are delivered so that essentially we focus on prevention as much as we do on cure.”
The plan will also involve using technology to allow for more precise targeting of public health messages, he told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday.
He said: “We can target messages at people to try to make sure that they maintain healthier lifestyles. What I don’t like in this area is punishing the masses for problems that only a minority have.”
He also said the repeatedly-delayed Green Paper on social care will be published “in the coming weeks” and “goes alongside this long-term plan for the NHS”.
Measures in the plan include:
– Greater support for 350,000 children and young people and 380,000 adults with mental health conditions
– Expanding the use of personal health budgets and giving people more say over their care as they age
– Giving patients digital access to their GP, including being able to make appointments, manage prescriptions and view health records online
– Improving maternity safety and giving greater mental health support to new parents
– Cutting waste, including back office savings of more than £700 million across the NHS.
Mrs May acknowledged that the extra money for the NHS means “less room for manoeuvre” for other areas of public spending.
But writing in the Mail on Sunday, she said her own experience as a Type 1 diabetic reinforced the view that it was the right decision to make.
“Even with the full control of our money that Brexit will deliver, this commitment means we will have less room for manoeuvre in other areas.
“But when I visit hospitals and meet the NHS staff who devote themselves unsparingly to the care of their patients, when I talk to people who owe their lives to the treatment they have received from their local hospital or GP, and when I reflect on the debt that I owe to an NHS that has helped me every step of the way as I live my life with Type 1 diabetes – I am in no doubt that it was the right decision.”