Labour challenges Sunak to do a shift in A&E to see ‘what it’s really like’, ahead of major speech

Shadow cabinet minister for mental health Rosena Allin-Khan has challenged prime minister Rishi Sunak to complete a shift in an A&E department so he can experience first-hand the pressures which NHS staff are facing.

Ms Allin-Khan, who has been an emergency doctor for 17 years, told Times Radio: “This Government are missing in action. Where is Rishi talking about the NHS? Where is he making announcements about what he is going to do?

“Why doesn’t he come and do a shift in A&E to see what it is really like?”.

This comes as Rishi Sunak is due to make a major domestic policy speech on Wednesday, as he vows to tackle voter “apprehension” about Britain’s future. 

However, growing concerns over the state of the NHS as it battles through a winter crisis look set to dominate proceedings. 

Commenting on the position of the National Health Service on Wednesday morning, Ms Allin-Khan said: “This is the worst I have ever seen our NHS, which is a sentiment shared by most of my colleagues”.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s “Today programme”, she added: “Fundamentally, we have an NHS that is in crisis, and Labour has a plan to improve the situation.

“We will have a workforce plan that will grow the number of nurses, we will train 10,000 more nurses and midwives every year, we will double the number of district nurses, we will create 5,000 more health visitors, and we will ensure that people get the help that they need when they need it”.

On Tuesday, Rishi Sunak’s official spokesperson repeatedly refused to use the word crisis to describe the state of the NHS, choosing instead to say it is facing an “unprecedented challenge” this winter.

The spokesperson said the government was “confident” it was “providing the NHS with the funding it needs”.

Alongside discussing the NHS, the prime minister’s speech on Wednesday is expected to announce a pledge to require all pupils to study some form of maths until the age of 18.  

Sunak is expected to say that the UK must “reimagine our approach to numeracy”.

The speech is expected to be a major moment for the prime minister who is facing criticism about the country’s direction from within his own party. 

Ahead of the speech, he tweeted: “New Year is a time for optimism, but I know there’s also a lot of apprehension. I am working night and day to change that, and quickly”. He said that the speech would “set out my priorities for the year ahead”.

Labour has claimed that the prime minister’s pledge to increase maths teaching showed the Tories “have nothing to offer the country” at a time when the health service is “falling to pieces”.

Labour also accused the prime minister of moving the speech forward in order to steal the spotlight from Keir Starmer’s planned new year speech on Thursday. 

A Labour source said: “As the health service falls to pieces after 12 years of Tory rule, criminals terrorise the streets, and working people worry how their wages will last the month, the country is entitled to ask: is this it?”.