Speaking in Parliament, Ms Alexander attacked the government for choosing to prioritise tackling ‘health tourism’, at the expense of more pressing NHS matters.
She argued a lack of nurse training places have created workforce shortages and a reliance on expensive agency staff, while cuts to social care and underfunding of GP services has put ‘huge pressure’ on A&E services, helping to create a record hole in the NHS’s finances.
She said Labour would support the measure if it ensured ‘fairness in the system’, but warned: “The truth is this – the cash crisis in the NHS isn’t the fault of migrants, it’s the fault of ministers.”
But Mr Maynard said: “To have a meaningful debate and to add value to your critique you do need to set out what you see as the financial requirements for the NHS going forward, otherwise this is actually not a very helpful debate to have.”
Ms Alexander replied, “You’ll just have to watch this space,” before turning to a number of personal stories from patients who had received poor care to illustrate problems within the service.
Conservative former minister Ken Clarke intervened to again highlight a lack of Labour policy.
He said: “There are always pressures in the giant National Health Service as demand grows, demand changes and expectation rises, and there always will be.
“You could have made this speech as an opposition spokesman 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago, 40 years ago.
“After 20 minutes you haven’t yet suggested a solitary policy proposal as an alternative to Mr Hunt’s.
“You haven’t said whether you agree with Mr Hunt on the seven day working and all the rest of it. Apart from describing sad incidents where things obviously have not been ideal, do you have anything to suggest by way of policy that might contribute to helping the NHS in future?”
Ms Alexander went on to criticise the government’s treatment of NHS staff, including pay freezes and the dispute with junior doctors.