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Health leaders criticise Prime Minister's new year speech

Rishi Sunak has been criticised by health leaders for being out of touch with the reality of the crisis in the NHS

The prime minister’s new year speech has been met with criticism by health leaders as pressures on the NHS continue to rise.

In his first speech of 2023, Rishi Sunak pledged that: ‘NHS waiting lists will fall and people will get the care they need more quickly.’

Mr Sunak has been criticised by health leaders for being out of touch with the stark reality of the crisis the NHS finds itself in.

BMA chair of council, Professor Philip Banfield felt that the prime minister showed ‘a baffling lack of urgency’ to address the NHS crisis that the whole country is experiencing.

He said: ‘The NHS is collapsing before our eyes, but today’s speech lacked the detail staff needed to know that they haven’t been abandoned, and that the health service will be given what it needs to survive.’

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RCN chief executive Pat Cullen also responded to the speech , in a letter to the health secretary Steve Barclay.

Ms Cullen felt that the pledge ‘focused on false promise and hollow boasts’ rather than introducing practical and urgent measures to tackle the problem.

‘Nursing staff are being forced to care for patients in corridors and other inappropriate locations against their own clinical judgement. This practice is grossly unsafe for the patient and the registered professional alike and the risk to life is severe,’ warned Ms Cullen.

The NHS Confederation have called for clear leadership from across government and for the prime minister to acknowledge that there is a real problem with the NHS.

‘The prime minister cannot afford to simply wish this crisis away,’ said chief executive, Matthew Taylor.

‘This situation has been a decade or more in the making and we are now paying the very high price for years of inaction and managed decline.’

Health leaders have stressed that a clear workforce plan is needed to retain and grow staff, if the NHS is to recover from its fragile state.