Theresa May has accused Jeremy Corbyn of giving the impression that the NHS is failing everybody amid claims she was “too weak” to sack the health secretary.
The prime minister reiterated her apology to patients affected by winter pressures, including to the thousands who have seen their operations cancelled, as she defended the preparations.
But Labour leader Corbyn said May had recognised there is a “crisis” in the NHS because she initially wanted to sack Mr Hunt, who ultimately survived the reshuffle and saw social care added to his portfolio.
The NHS dominated the pair’s exchanges at the first PMQs of 2018.
Corbyn cited reports that nurses were “spending their entire shift treating people in car parks” due to backed-up ambulances.
He added: “We know the prime minister recognises there’s a crisis in our NHS because she wanted to sack the health secretary last week but was too weak to do it.
“And if the NHS is so well-resourced and so well-prepared, why was a decision taken last week to cancel the operations of 55,000 patients during the month of January?”
Labour frontbenchers shouted “apologise” at May, who said she had already made clear her apology during PMQs.
She added: “We will make sure those operations are reinstated as soon as possible. We are putting record funding into the NHS and record funding into mental health.”
Corbyn raised the case of an 82-year-old woman who spent 13 hours on a trolley in a corridor, noting she arrived at hospital three hours after first dialling 999.
He said this is not an “isolated” case, adding: “Does the prime minister really believe the NHS is better prepared than ever for the crisis it’s now going through?”
May offered to examine the case, adding: “Week in and week out, in the run-up to Christmas and now today, what [Corbyn] is doing is giving the impression of a National Health Service that is failing everybody that goes to use the NHS.
“The reality in our NHS is that we are seeing 2.9m more people now going to accident and emergency, over 2m more operations taking place each year.
“Our National Health Service is something we should be proud of and that’s why it’s a first-class National Health Service.”