Rishi Sunak was confronted by a patient about nurses’ pay, during a visit to a hospital in Croydon.
Catherine Poole, a 77-year-old patient who is recovering from surgery, gave the Prime Minister a short lecture when he arrived for a chat on her ward.
The south Londoner, who told him she was hoping to go from home from Croydon University Hospital in south London in the coming days, was asked by Mr Sunak how the hospital’s nurses were looking after her.
As Mr Sunak crouched down to have a word with her, she could be heard telling the Prime Minister about pay for nurses.
“You need to pay them,” Ms Poole instructed the Prime Minister.
Mr Sunak, wearing a mask as he toured the hospital, said his Government was trying.
“You are not trying, you need to try harder,” she told him.
Mr Sunak went on to say that the NHS was important.
“Yes, and look after it,” Ms Poole told him.
Thousands of nurses across the country are currently balloting on walk-outs, as healthcare workers call for a pay rise amid soaring inflation.
The NHS could also be in line for a further tightening of budgets, as Chancellor Jeremy Hunt eyes ways to fill a multi-billion pound fiscal black hole.
Mr Sunak dodged a question about nurses’ pay, when pushed by broadcasters following the exchange.
Asked if he was happy that nurses are not getting a real-term increase in pay, he said: “It is brilliant to be here at Croydon Hospital, to see the great work of the doctors and nurses here.
“One of the priorities for my Government is going to be tackling the Covid backlogs and supporting the NHS.
“We face lots of challenges as a country, but I am confident that we can fix the economy and deliver on the promise of the 2019 manifesto, including having a stronger NHS.”
Mr Sunak received a more positive reaction from other patients.
At one bed, 46-year-old Sreeja Gopalan told him: “I am waiting to see you.”
“I am proud of you,” she said, as she took a selfie with the Prime Minister.