Jeremy Hunt has been ridiculed after making the “laughable” claim that the creation of the NHS was down to Tory support, despite the Conservatives voting against is passage over a dozen times in Parliament.
Igniting a row with Labour, the Health Secretary told delegates at the Tory conference in Manchester that the creation of Britain’s health service was down to the Conservative minister Sir Henry Willink, who had published a white paper preparing the ground for a health service in 1944 – four years before the NHS was launched.
“Nye Bevan [Labour’s then-health minister] deserves credit for founding the NHS in 1948,” the Health Secretary said. “But that wasn’t him or indeed any Labour minister.”
“That was the Conservative health minister in 1944, Sir Henry Willink, whose white paper announced the setting up of the NHS,” he continued. “He did it with cross-party support. And for me that’s what the NHS should always be: not a political football, not a weapon to win votes but there for all of us with support from all of us.”
But the Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “Jeremy Hunt’s claim the Tories created the NHS is laughable. The Tories fought it tooth and nail all the way through Parliament on a three one whip. In fact they voted against the creation of the NHS 22 times including at the third reading.
“Over the last 70 years, the Tories have under-funded and tried to sell off the NHS. Labour government’s have always stepped in to fully fund and rebuild the NHS. And so it will again fall to the next Labour government to give the NHS the funding it needs and rebuild it to deliver the quality world class health service every patient deserves.”
Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine added to was “astonishing” that Mr Hunt has the gall to claim a Conservative minister was responsible for setting up the NHS, then in the next breath says the health service should be above party politics“.
“The Liberal Democrats have long argued that a cross-party approach is urgently needed to secure the future of the NHS and care. But time and again the government has ignored these calls.
“It’s time for Jeremy Hunt to put his money where his mouth is and launch an cross-party convention on the NHS and care.”
It comes after the Health Secretary announced a “historic 25 per cent increase in nurse training,” to allow an extra 5,000 nurses to start their degree next year. He also pledged funding for a further 5,500 “nursing associates” each year – who will “earn and learn”, rather than study full-time through a traditional university degree.
A “right to buy affordable homes developed on surplus NHS land” will also be promised, in Mr Hunt’s speech to the Conservative party conference.
“This represents the biggest increase in nurse training places in the history of the NHS,” the Health Secretary will tell the Tory faithful in Manchester.
However, the announcement comes hard-on-the heels of a 23 per cent collapse in the number of applications to nursing and midwifery courses at British universities, this autumn.
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