The Tories must “face up” to the fact many people doubt they care enough about the NHS or schools, Theresa May has said.
She she said her party had to “mount a determined effort to win and keep the public’s trust in our management of public services”, which are facing “real challenges”.
She told the Conservative Spring Forum that people “question our motives” and “wonder whether we care enough about our NHS and schools”.
A YouGov poll in January found 70% of Tory supporters rated the NHS as a “serious concern”, the single biggest issue they identified.
January was the second-worst for NHS A&E departments, as it struggled to cope with demand during the winter crisis. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said doctors knew what to expect when they “signed up”.
But, in February, a Guardian/ICM poll gave Labour a 23-point lead over the Tories on the issue of protecting the NHS.
At the time, Jonathan Ashworth, shadow health secretary, said: “The truth is you simply can’t trust the Tories with the NHS.
“This winter we’ve seen cancelled operations, overcrowded hospitals and people stuck in the back of ambulances in the freezing cold.”
In her speech on Saturday, May warned people wonder “whether we truly respect the people who work in them and understand that people rely on them”.
In a rare mention of her personal life, she talked about the importance of the NHS after her diabetes diagnosis.
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“The NHS was there for me, skilled and compassionate, helping me every step of the way to manage my condition and live a normal life,” she said.
“I rely on the NHS everyday and I am eternally grateful to them. That is an experience replicated right across the country, by people of all political persuasions.”
She added: “We know how much we care about our vital public services, and we know we have a strong record of delivery in government.
“So we might think that the public’s doubts about us are unfair but they are a political fact which we must face up to.”