Rishi Sunak has admitted that he has failed on his pledge to cut NHS waiting lists.
The Prime Minister last year made cutting the number of patients waiting for treatment one of the five key priorities of his leadership.
While he did not put a timeframe on achieving it, he has conceded that he has not met his target.
The Conservative Party leader told TalkTV that industrial action in the health sector “has had an impact” on delivering the commitment.
Asked about the NHS commitment during an interview with Piers Morgan in Downing Street, Mr Sunak said: “We have not made enough progress.”
Asked whether he had failed on the pledge, the Prime Minister replied: “Yes, we have.”
A pay deal with striking nurses and Agenda for Change staff was agreed last year, but junior doctors and consultants have continued with walkouts.
Data analysed by the PA news agency last month suggests that, despite recent decreases in the waiting list, it is still higher than when Mr Sunak’s pledge was made.
The list stood at 7.21 million treatments waiting to be carried out in January 2023.
In November – a month when there was no industrial action – some 7.61 million treatments were waiting to be carried out.
When the increase was put to the Prime Minister by Morgan, he replied: “Yes, and we all know the reasons for that.
“And what I would say to people is, look, we have invested record amounts in the NHS, more doctors, more nurses, more scanners.
“All these things mean that the NHS is doing more today than it ever has been.
“But industrial action has had an impact.”
Morgan went on to tell Mr Sunak about his 79-year-old mother’s experience three months ago after having a heart attack.
The broadcaster told the British leader that, despite being driven to the hospital in an ambulance, she waited on a trolley in an A&E corridor for nearly seven hours to be seen, in a scene she compared to a “war zone”.
The Prime Minister said the account was “shocking” and that performance in A&E and with ambulance waiting times were “not good enough”.
But he denied that the Tories had failed the NHS since 2010, citing the backlog created by the coronavirus pandemic.
“We can’t escape that,” he added.
“When you shut down the country in the NHS for the best part of two years, that has had an impact on everything since then. And we just have to recognise that reality.”
Also during the interview, Mr Sunak accepted a £1,000 bet with Morgan, a former Daily Mirror editor, that deportation flights to Rwanda will take place before the next general election, which is expected in the autumn.
He has previously set the target of sending asylum seekers who arrive in the UK via unauthorised routes, including those crossing the English Channel in small boats, to the east African country by the spring.
The UK has paid Rwanda £240 million under the Prime Minister’s plan to “stop the boats” — another of his five key pledges — and ministers expect to pay an additional £50 million next year.
But no migrants have yet been removed due to legal challenges that resulted in the Supreme Court last year finding the scheme unlawful.
Mr Sunak is trying to revive the policy by passing legislation deeming Rwanda a safe country and ratifying a new treaty with Kigali.
The Rwanda Bill is currently making its way through a House of Lords that is hostile to the scheme.
After shaking hands with Morgan on the terms of the Rwanda bet, Mr Sunak said: “I want to get the people on the plane.
“I am working incredibly hard to get the people on the planes.”
The full interview is due to be shown on the Piers Morgan Uncensored YouTube channel at 2pm and TalkTV at 8pm on Monday.
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