Health Secretary Matt Hancock was told to “just do the maths” in a painful TV interview over Tory NHS promises.
Speaking to Breakfast presenter Charlie Stayt over Conservative plans for the NHS, Hancock was quizzed on the claim an extra 50,000 nurses would be ploughed into the health service – despite 18,500 of these already working as nurses.
Mr Hancock explains that “by reducing the number of people who leave through voluntary reasons you increase the number of nurses who are there.”
Presenter Charlie, seemingly struggling to equate the figures in his head, responded with: “Sorry, I have tried to hold off on this, but if you take 50,000 – which is your big number – and you take 18,500 away who are already nurses – can you do the maths?
“How many do you have left?”
Mr Hancock did not answer the question, but went on to explain how there will not be 50,000 new nurses in the NHS, stressing the Conservatives are only promising “more” nurses in measures to stop 18,500 nurses from leaving.
Earlier in the week, Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan floundered on Good Morning Britain as she was subjected to questioning on the nurses pledge by Piers Morgan.
Piers, along with co-host Susanna Reid struggled to contain their giggles as they too asked the Tory MP to take 18,500 away from 50,000 – revealing the true number of new nurses who would be entering the NHS.
The flustered MP replied: “If you look at the numbers of nursing staff who leave the NHS it is far too high. So like any employer, you want to make sure that you are keeping your skilled staff so that is absolutely part of the strategy.”
But Piers hit back: “Why don’t you just say that? Say, ‘We’re going to try and persuade people who may want to leave to stay’ but not call them ‘more nurses’.
And in another car crash public appearance for the Prime Minister, furious nurses confronted him over the same claim during a visit to West Cornwall Hospital in Penzance.
But he was challenged on his General Election campaign pledges as he drank tea with staff on a medical ward.
One student nurse told the PM how she was “struggling” financially because of tuition fees and asked him about his plans to bring back the nursing bursary.
Mr Johnson said: “We’re definitely bringing back the bursary … but I’ll have to check that (on tuition fees).”
Another asked him about his commitment to deliver 50,000 new nurses, saying: “Where are these people going to come from?”
Another said: “Do you have a nurses tree too, as well as a money tree?”
The PM replied: “I think we should have a programme of making sure that people who have grown up in this country have a career in nursing … we’ve also got to make sure that we are open to people from around the world, and we can do that and we’re going to have an immigration system that is points-based.”
The Tory leader also announced the party’s policy to scrap nurses bursaries would be torn up in a huge u-turn.
The Conservative government scrapped the vital support for trainees just three years ago.
But already the policy has been branded a disaster.
The Royal College of Nursing said that between the policy being implemented in June 2016 and February this year nursing degree applications in England fell by 13,000.