Health secretary Steve Barclay has been confronted with public fury over the crumbling NHS – as an angry member of the public heckled the minister upset about ambulance delays.
The cabinet minister was speaking to media outside Moorfields Eye Hospital in Old Street, central London, when a woman suggested the Tory government has done “bugger all” during 12 years in power.
During his interviews, a woman passing by approached Barclay and asked him: “Are you going to do anything about the ambulances waiting, and the people dying out?”
Barclay replied: “Of course we are,” but the woman continued: “Don’t you think 12 years is long enough?
“Twelve years – you’ve done bugger all about it.
“People have died, and all you’ve done is nothing.”
The incident drew comparisons to an infamous scene from BBC comedy The Thick Of It, when fictional minister Hugh Abbot is confronted by an angry worker who asks: “Do you know what it’s like to clean up your own mother’s piss?”
Last week, many were shocked after an 87-year-old man had to wait 15 hours for an ambulance in a makeshift shelter made out of a garden football goal.
A recent report by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) showed that patients were facing “frequent and prolonged” waits for ambulances.
The report exposed several cases, such as that of an elderly patient who died after waiting 14 hours for assistance from South Central Ambulance Service.
On Thursday, Barclay was given a tour of an operating theater by surgeons at Moorfields Eye Hospital, before speaking to press on the street outside.
Following the heated interaction, Barclay said that reducing ambulance waiting times is an “absolute priority” for the government.
He told the PA news agency: “There’s a range of measures that we’re taking.
“We’re looking at conveyance rates in ambulances, we’re looking at how we address variation in performance, we’re looking at funding – an extra £150 million to the ambulance service, a further £50 million into call centres, for 111 and 999, in terms of call handling, a further £30 million into St John Ambulance around the auxiliary ambulance performance.
“We’re also then looking at what happens with the ambulance handovers, so emergency departments, how we triage those, how we look at the allocation of this within the system.
“Of course, that is all connected to delayed discharge and people being ready to leave hospital who are not doing so, and that’s about the integration of care between social care and hospitals.
“So there’s a range of issues within how we deliver on ambulances, but it’s an absolute priority both for the Government and for NHS England.”