David Nicholson, chief executive of the National Health Service, has rejected claims that the political interference has bought the Service to its knees.

In his speech to delegates at the NHS Confederation’s conference in London last week, and referring to a statement made by the British Medical Association last month, he argued that the NHS is not on its knees, and dismissed as “factually incorrect” comments by Peter Carter, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, that the Service’s financial state is “a tragedy or a farce.”

Furthermore, Nicholson warned that such negative comments are “damaging to the public confidence and staff morale,” and went on to slam certain groups for putting their "own vested interests" before patients and the NHS as a whole.

Union rejects accusation

But, in a letter to the Guardian, Karen Jenson, head of health at Unison, said that nothing could be further from the truth. “It is the members of Unison and the other health unions who are working tirelessly to provide the substance behind the drive to modernise our NHS and produce the best possible service for patients.”

She went on to say: “As those who work in the service are committed to providing the best possible care, it is entirely understandable that morale has been affected by recent belt-tightening measures that have led to cuts in both jobs and services. This has been compounded by the government's refusal to honour in full the independently recommended pay award despite the NHS producing a £500 million surplus.”

And, in response to Nicholson’s statements, Dr Carter said: "We do find it both tragic and farcical to find ourselves in a situation where, through a combination of short-term job losses, service cuts and economies, the NHS has swung from a deficit of £911 million to a surplus of £510 million," the Guardian reports.

Call for ceasefire

But speaking at the conference, Gill Morgan, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, called for a ceasefire between the squabbling factions in the healthcare arena, and she told delegates that leaders in the health debate must come together to pull the NHS forward.

“No one organisation or individual is to blame but, collectively, we are leaving a perception which is harming the image of the service which is still a vital part of our heritage,” she said, adding: “To allow the NHS to thrive, we all need to pull together and be very aware of the impact of what we say on staff morale, public opinion and the direction of health policy…Squabbles amongst ourselves, carried out on the front page of newspapers, may feel like the right way to protect patients and staff, but can end up making us look as if we have forgotten our primary duty to patients and to the public.”

“The future of the NHS is in all of our hands - let's pull together to make it thrive," Morgan stressed.