Labour in opposition singing to a different tune on NHS reform, says Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt
HEALTH Secretary Jeremy Hunt says it was Labour that paved the way for moves to cut the wages of health service staff in Bath
Mr Hunt took to task his opposite number Andy Burnham, who has criticised controversial proposals by 20 NHS trusts across the South West, to impose longer working hours for staff, and cuts to salary and leave.
The Conservative Secretary of State said Mr Burnham had been in charge when the powers, allowing such changes, got the go-ahead.
But now in opposition, Mr Hunt said the Labour politician now “sings a different tune”.
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It was among a string of Labour ‘inconsistencies’ Mr Hunt highlighted during his speech to the Tory Party conference in Birmingham.
He also gave a highly-personal defence of the Conservatives' attitude to the NHS, and told Tory activists Labour’s claim to the health service was insulting.
Mr Burnham recently vowed to defend national pay in the NHS “to the hilt”, and attacked Mr Hunt for remaining silent on the proposals in the South West.
The Royal United Hospital Bath NHS Trust is among those signed up to the South West Pay, Terms and Conditions Consortium, which has been branded a ‘cartel’ by critics.
Mr Hunt said Labour had backed NHS reform when in government, adding: “But now he’s in opposition, Andy Burnham sings a different tune.”
The Secretary of State said: “Last week Andy Burnham complained about Foundation Trusts setting their own employment conditions in the South West. But guess who was Minister when the act enshrining those powers got royal assent? Andy Burnham. “
Mr Hunt went on: “He criticised private sector involvement in the NHS. But who was the Health Secretary who ensured a private company would run a district general hospital for the very first time? Andy Burnham.
“And finally he railed against so-called cuts. But whilst we are increasing the NHS budget by over £12bn, who was the Health Secretary who went into the last election saying it would be irresponsible to increase it? Andy Burnham.
“First rule of opposition Andy: criticise what the new lot do, not what you did yourself.”
Mr Hunt added: “And as for Ed Miliband: how totally disingenuous for the man whose government had nine reorganisations of the NHS to criticise us over one – and then announce another when he says he will repeal the Health Act. Our one nation won’t be fooled by that.
“But it isn’t just inconsistency, it’s substance.”
Mr Hunt told the Conservatives' annual conference in Birmingham the party “is and always has been the party of aspiration”.
He added: “To people up and down this country, health is an aspiration perhaps even more important than a good school for the children and financial security for the family, which is why as a party we care so much about health and the NHS which provides it.”