A government minister has refused to admit the NHS is in crisis as he faced a mauling from healthcare workers during the BBC’s flagship politics show.
Alex Chalk, a defence minister, was sent on Question Time as the healthcare system faces huge pressures and was brought up as the first question on the programme.
The NHS is currently battling multiple problems including long ambulance delays, record workplace vacancies, a shortage of beds and industrial action by staff who are protesting over pay and working conditions.
The problems were underlined by a succession of NHS workers in the audience in Birmingham.
One said: “I’ve been on the frontline prior to the pandemic, during the pandemic, post pandemic. I’m going to put it bluntly, it’s like a warzone. There are beds everywhere, patients everywhere. Elderly people are sitting on chairs for 24 hours. It’s not OK. it needs to be addressed and addressed now.”
Another added: “My (healthcare) trust declared a critical incident, and it stepped down the critical incident. Not because things are getting better but because it doesn’t make any difference us declaring it a critical incident, because you refuse to accept this is a crisis. And people are dying because you are not addressing the problems.”
Following the barrage, presenter Fiona Bruce pushed Chalk on whether he would admit the service was facing a “crisis”.
Chalk said: “There is no doubt the pressures are at historic levels … the reason why I say that is because talk is cheap, action is what matters.”
As Bruce interrupted him repeatedly demanding that he say the NHS was in crisis, he added: “It’s incredibly intense … action is what matters.”
The government says it has backed the NHS and social care system with up to £14.1 billion additional funding over the next two years, including an extra £500 million this winter to speed up hospital discharge and free up beds. It also said it has awarded a 9.3% pay rise to the lowest earners in the NHS last year.