Page last updated at 17:20 GMT, Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Burnham and Hunt clash over NHS spending

Labour has accused the government of breaking its pledge on NHS spending, but Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt insisted his department was increasing spending year-on-year.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham claimed the government was giving a "false version of events" on NHS expenditure.

He said spending cuts had left the health service in "chaos", and told ministers to show "the NHS, its patients and staff a little more respect".

His comments came as he opened an opposition debate on the subject on 12 December 2012.

The Labour motion noted that UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) chair Andrew Dilnot said "expenditure on the NHS in real terms was lower in 2011-12 than it was in 2009-10".

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt dismissed the "bogus" motion which he said was an attempt to "paint a picture of cuts" to the NHS budget.

But the "uncomfortable truth" for Labour was that the coalition was spending more on the NHS than the previous government, and the service was performing "better than ever".

Mr Hunt said the budget had increased by £12.5bn in 2011-12, a 0.1% rise in real terms, and it would continue increasing "in every year of the Parliament".

"These are small, real-term increases albeit ones he [Mr Burnham] bitterly opposed," Mr Hunt said.

He added that in Wales, where a Labour government is in power, the health budget had been cut by 8% in real terms.

Dr John Pugh, Liberal Democrat MP for Southport, said the NHS was "holding up, sort of".

But he said savings were being made "off the back of a wage freeze, which is not sustainable".

He said he was alarmed there was no agreement on the best way forward for the NHS.

The motion calling on ministers to reflect UKSA figures in their public statements on the NHS was rejected by a majority of 70.


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