With NHS waiting lists having risen to 7.9 million, up from 7.2 million, since the autumn of last year, Rishi Sunak has this morning firmly attributed the increase to strikes by junior doctors and consultants. Mr Sunak pointed to how waiting lists had been appearing to fall, before the latest set of strikes.
Taking listener’s calls on an LBC Radio phone in this morning, the prime minister said, “I am delighted that the nurses and a million other NHS workers accepted the government’s pay offer, and they are working really hard to deliver for patients, but unfortunately we still have groups of people who are not doing that, and they are striking, and that is a reason that the waiting lists are going up. It is as simple as that”.
Challenged during the phone in by Olivia, a junior doctor, Mr Sunak said of junior doctors, “I would say to them that I am very grateful and respectful of the incredible job you do, but we all have a shared mission to bring the waiting lists down. I have done my bit by backing the NHS with a long term workforce plan and record funding, and I would ask people to think about accepting an independent offer”.
Continuing Mr Sunak said, “Over a million NHS workers have accepted the government’s pay deal, many of them on salaries and incomes far lower than consultants, and that of Olivia and her colleagues, that is just the reality of it”.
“You and I are not going to agree, because your union is asking for a 35% payrise. I don’t think that is reasonable. I don’t think that is affordable. I don’t think that is fair”.
The firmer line being taken by Mr Sunak on striking NHS junior doctors reflects what is widely being seen as the more ‘front fronted’ approach being adopted by the prime minister in his recent media appearances.
Challenged this morning that his recent policy announcement on expanding North Sea oil and gas licences might see him being characterized as a ‘dangerous radical’ in the context of comments made by the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr Sunak replied, “I would say to the Secretary General and anyone else, where is the largest offshore wind farm in the world, here in the UK. Where is the second largest, third largest, fourth largest, here in the UK”.
This morning’s interview marks the last media appearance by the prime minister before he embarks on a week’s holiday to California later this afternoon.
Mr Sunak this morning revealed that during this impending trip, he would be taking his two daughters to Disney Land. Mr Sunak is an avid Star Wars fan and he said that he was particularly looking forward to visiting the Star Wars part of the Disney Land theme park.
Mr Sunak and his wife Akshata Murthy are believed to have retained a home in California. The pair met when previously attending university in the US state.