UK Politics

Party leaders in Commons clash over Stafford Hospital scandal

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Media captionDavid Cameron and Ed Miliband clash on NHS spending figures and casualty waiting times

David Cameron has said the Stafford Hospital scandal shows Labour cannot be trusted over the NHS as he clashed with Ed Miliband in the Commons.

The prime minister said the failings at Stafford, which led to the death of hundreds of people 2005 and 2008, would be "repeated again" under Labour.

Mr Miliband said that case was terrible but accused the PM of a "disgraceful slur" on Labour's record on the NHS.

And he said A&E services were "in crisis" under the current government.

At the first Prime Minister's Questions for more than a month, the two men clashed over which party was better placed to run the health service, exchanging views on their parties' respective records while in power.

Mr Cameron suggested that if Labour was returned to power at the next election, there was a risk of further tragedies like that at Stafford - which took place while the last Labour government was in power.

"If anyone wants a memory of Labour's record in the NHS, they only have to read the report into the Stafford Hospital," he told MPs.

Under Labour, he suggested, there would be "cuts to the NHS, longer waiting lists and all the problems we saw at Stafford Hospital will be repeated over again".

Mr Miliband said what had happened in Stafford was "terrible" but accused the prime minister of misrepresenting the "transformation" that took place in the health service under the last government and a "disgraceful slur on the doctors and nurses that made that happen".

The Francis report into the Stafford scandal earlier this year criticised the culture of care at the hospital and the proliferation of central targets but did not blame ministers or specific managers for what went wrong.

'In distress'

The Labour leader said accident and emergency services in hospitals were now in crisis, with the number of people waiting for four hours - a government target - rising from 340,000 in 2009-2010 to 888,000 last year.

"Accident and emergency is the barometer of the NHS," Mr Miliband told MPs during heated exchanges.

"This barometer is telling us that it is a system in distress."

The coalition had also presided over a fall in the number of nurses while the NHS helpline was in chaos, he added.

But Mr Cameron said a million more people were being seen at A&E departments now than when Labour was in power while the number of day cases had increased by 500,000 over the past three years.

Waiting times for inpatient operations had fallen since 2010 while waiting times for outpatients were stable, he added.

"The NHS is performing better under this government than it ever did under Labour."

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