Rishi Sunak in Leicestershire: With the NHS is crisis we ask the Prime Minister why people should vote Conservative

Rishi Sunak was in Hinckley today as part of his General Election campaign, and LeicestershireLive took the opportunity to ask him about the state of the NHS. With people throughout the county struggling to access a service as basic as a doctors’ appointment under the Conservatives, we questioned the Prime Minister on why voters should back his party on July 4.

Data released last month showed one in nine Leicestershire residents waited more than three weeks for an appointment in March. Sitting down with the Press at the constituency office of Bosworth MP Luke Evans this afternoon, the PM insisted his Government was “making sure it can get care to people faster and when they need it”, raising Hinckley’s planned new Community Diagnostic Centre as an example.

He also pointed to a recent initiative that gave pharmacists the power to treat some of the most common illnesses such as sore throats and ear infections so people would not need to visit their GP. The waiting lists at hospitals across the country are coming down, he said.

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However, the PM also recognised there was still work to do. He told LeicestershireLive: “Look, I know there's more to do when it comes to NHS waiting lists. We've been hammered by a pandemic, and it's going to take time to recover from that.

"The good news is [national] waiting lists are now coming down by about 200,000 over the past few months would have been down by more if we hadn't had the strikes. But, thankfully, that is now behind us and we can move forward.”

Mr Sunak also took the opportunity to insist the Conservative party, under his leadership, “has a clear plan” - something he claimed Labour lacked. Moreover, it is a plan which he claims “is working”.

He said: “We live in uncertain times, and those uncertain times demand leadership that is prepared to take bold action. That has a clear plan because that's how you deliver a secure future for everyone and our country.

“And that's my message to everyone, not just here in the East Midlands, but across the country. Wherever I'm going, we're the ones that prepared to take bold action. We're the ones that got a clear plan.

“You can see that that plan is working, particularly when it comes to the economy. Inflation down from 11 per cent to 2 per cent.”

The Prime Minister was also asked about his new proposal which would see all 18-year-olds undertake a form of National Service. This would either be military service or volunteering work with services like the NHS, police and fire.

Given the demand this would place on young people, the PM was asked if he had given up on securing their votes. He insisted this policy was for young people and would be “transformational for them”.

He said: “I think it's going to be transformational and not just for our country, but for young people, because it's gonna provide all young people, regardless of where they grow up, what they where they live, what their background is, the opportunities to gain really valuable skills that will set them up for life. And at the same time, it will help foster a culture of service that will make our society more cohesive.

“I believe service gives you purpose, so beyond the skills that young people will gain. I think there's an enormous amount of purpose you give from service for giving something back to your community.

“So I think young people will find it really fulfilling and as well it will contribute to our country's resilience and security. For all these reasons, I think it's a really positive step.”

The PM also visited a Leicestershire bowling green while he was in the county. Speaking on plans for a tax cut for pensioners, he said this offered a “clear choice” for voters at the election.

“What I believe is if you work hard all your life you should have dignity in retirement,” the Prime Minister said during a visit to a bowling green in Leicestershire.

He said the “triple lock-plus” - which will see the threshold at which pensioners start paying tax on their pensions rise - would deliver “a tax cut worth around £100 to millions of pensioners, demonstrating our commitment to them".

Under Labour “pensioners will be paying tax” and “that’s a clear choice on offer," he said. Asked if he was now admitting that freezing the personal allowance thresholds was a tax rise, the Prime Minister said the twin challenges of Covid and the Ukraine war meant “difficult decisions” were taken to control debt and borrowing.

He added: “Now that that plan has worked – inflation has come down from 11 per cent to 2 per cent, wages are rising and the economy is growing – we are also able to cut people’s taxes.”