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Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said in an interview with The Guardian that “patient safety in the NHS is still deeply flawed”, and that staff were “terrified” to speak out about mistakes.

He also conceded that he would not be able to deliver on his promise to bring 5,000 more GPs to England by 2020. He admitted that lack of staff was the “biggest priority we have now”, and that Brexit has made it “challenging” for the NHS to recruit EU staff. Recent figures have revealed that the number of nurses and midwives coming to work in the UK from EU nations fell 87% last year, whilst the number leaving the UK rose 28%.

Hunt also suggested that the NHS could be in line for a “significant” increase in funding to mark its 70th anniversary next month. This news comes after Prime Minister, Theresa May, pledged in March to give the health service ten years of guaranteed cash to mark 70 years since it was founded.

He confirmed that the increase in money will exceed the annual 1 per cent rise. Hunt also said he was hoping for the NHS to be given ten-year budgets so that the service is put on longer-term financial footing.

He said: ‘We have to recognise that we have a once-in-a-generation challenge and the choice we have as a country is: are we going to deal with that challenge in an ad hoc way, living hand to mouth year in year out, or are we going to look at this strategically?’

Health chiefs have recently warned that the NHS must get at least a four per cent yearly increase in funds if the UK wants to continue giving the same health standards it has, but the treasury has said that anything above 2.5% is unaffordable.

It is understood that the deal is far from finalised.

Hunt said: “I’ve been making the NHS’s case that we need significant and sustainable funding increases to meet the demographic challenges we face, and the Prime Minister completely appreciates that.”

“Now the economy is back on its feet and growing much more healthily we’re able to have a discussion for the first time about a significant increase in resources, and that presents enormous opportunity for the country in terms of the type of NHS that our children and grandchildren will experience.”

He added: “The NHS remains for the vast majority of people, in poll after poll, the most important public service.”

Hunt recently became the longest serving Health Secretary in the UK. His tenure has seen numerous challenges, including the first ever strikes by junior doctors, a series of NHS winter crises, hospitals unable to meet key targets and claims he is trying to privatise the public health service.

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