By Cassie Chambers
William Hague has insisted cutting treatments to save money is "totally unacceptable" in the face of criticism from Harriet Harman in prime minister's questions.
Both Labour and the Conservative parties claimed their policies on the health service had produced the best results in exchanges this lunchtime.
Ms Harman pressed foreign secretary William Hague on the way limited finances—which her party claims have stemmed from Conservative policies—are causing patients to be denied access to care. Mr Hague was filling in for David Cameron while the prime minister is at the G20 summit in Mexico.
The deputy Labour leader repeated claims made in GP magazine, 90% of trusts are restricting access to more than 125 different treatments on the grounds of cost alone.
Mr Hague denied such practices, prohibited under NHS guidelines, are occurring, saying it is "totally unacceptable if trusts are rationing on grounds of financial considerations".
"The NHS medical director has written to trusts to tell them the only criteria of decisions must be clinical and not financial," he said.
"If evidence is found that they are ignoring that then the secretary of state can intervene."
Ms Harman dismissed this response, claiming that evidence already exists and the government is failing to act.
The deputy leader went on to argue that financial rationing is indicative of a more general NHS decline under the Conservative party.
"Service rationed, patients suffering and public satisfaction at a new low. That's the Tories on the NHS," she added.
"It's always the same. Labour builds up the NHS and the Tories drag it down."
Ms Harman continued: "The prime minister once told us he could sum up his priorities in 3 letters: NHS. Isn't it more like LOL?"
Mr Hague denied that quality in the NHS has suffered under the coalition government, saying he is "proud of what has happened in the NHS".
He said average waiting times for both in patients and out patients are lower now than they were in May 2010.