Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has used his speech to the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham to deliver an attack on the Labour Party for its past performance and scare stories concerning the future of the National Health Service.

He claimed that the Opposition “still seek to trick the public into thinking one party cares for the NHS and the other doesn’t”, adding that “it’s not a Labour Health Service or a Conservative Health Service…it is a National Health Service”. Mr Hunt told Labour “don’t turn the National Health Service into a National Political Football and don’t use the NHS to divide us when it’s the fabric that unites our nation”.

The minister went on to describe the “successes of our NHS, doing so well despite huge pressure”, mentioning the Cancer Drugs Fund, advances in dementia care and reduced awaiting times in A&E. Denying that the NHS is in decline, he cited the USA’s Commonwealth Fund’s recent league table which put the UK as the top-rated healthcare system in the world.

Mr Hunt went on to give a list of Labour Party failures, claiming that the party “still refuses to learn the lessons of Mid Staffs…until you do, you are not fit to run our NHS”. He said that the Conservatives will be the ones who complete “Nye Bevan’s vision for an NHS that treats every patient with dignity and respect”, referencing the Labour architect of the service and health minister after World War II.

Mr Hunt added that “securing the NHS budget isn’t about an extra billion here or there. It’s about funding over £100 billion, which is what we spend on the NHS every year. And that needs a strong economy. Because it’s very simple: you can’t fund the NHS if you bankrupt the economy”.

He called on Labour to “stop scaremongering about privatisation that isn’t happening. It nearly cost us Scotland - and we won’t let it poison the debate in England as well. Secure NHS funding backed by a strong economy is the foundation”.