Ed Miliband and David Cameron clashed over the NHS at Prime Minsiter’s Questions today, trading attacks over spending, frontline workers and reorganisation – and reflecting (briefly) on last Thursday’s PCC and by-elections.
Here is a transript of the exchange:
EM: “Mr Speaker, the government promised that there should be no rationing in the NHS on grounds of cost alone. Can the prime minister tell us whether or not he has kept that promise?”
DC: “Well the promise that we kept is that we promised we would increase NHS spending every year under this government and in Britain, in England, that is what happening. In Wales of course there is a massive cut in the NHS because it’s run by Labour.”
EM: “Well first of all Mr Speaker there are 7,000 fewer nurses in the NHS than when he came to power. But I will ask him a very specific question about a promise made by the then health secretary – I know he’s sacked him but he’s now Leader of the House – he promised a year ago there’d be no rationing based on cost alone and this is what the president of the college of ophthalmologists has said, well, yes I think we should look at what the president of the College of Ophthalmologists has said, he said this: “PCTs are not following government guidelines”.
“Half of health commissioners are restricting access to cataract surgery. I don’t think you should ask for help from him, you got rid of him from the post. Can the prime minister tell us why, for the first time six years, the number of cataract operations actually fell last year?”
DC: “What I can tell him is that under this government the number of doctors is up, the number of operations is up, waiting lists are down, waiting times are down, that is what is happening because we took the responsible decision. He quotes Primary Care Trusts, of course we are abolishing Primary Care Trusts, we are putting the money into frontline services. That is what is happening under this government. They believe, he believes, increasing spending on the NHS is irresponsible; we think it’s the right thing to do.”
EM: “Mr Speaker, once again he has no clue about the detail. He has no idea what is actually happening out there, on the ground. Give him credit, Mr Speaker, he made history this week – he’s got his very own word in the Oxford dictionary, “omnishambles”. And the reality is, the reason why people are suffering on the ground is that he’s wasted billions of pounds on a top down reorganisation of the NHS that nobody wanted and nobody voted for, just like how he wasted millions of pounds on police commissioner elections. He doesn’t listen, he’s out of touch, and last Thursday the people of Corby spoke for the country.”
DC: “Last Thursday the people of Humberside spoke for the whole nation. Happily there is more, because of course the former deputy prime minister John Prescott said this: “this is not just about the police, this is a referendum on everything the police has done on health, on education, on local authorities…” – and people took the first opportunity to kick him out.
“And on the subject of making history, this week I think the leader of the Labour Party made history, because he told his conference he wanted to be Disraeli, he told radio 4 he wanted to be Margaret Thatcher, he came to this house and said on Europe he is more Eurosceptic than Bill Cash and then he went to the CBI and said he loved Europe more than Tony Blair. He’s impersonated more politicians than Rory Bremner, but this time the joke’s on him.”