Sarah Pinnington-Auld told Mr Barclay the government had failed to properly fund the health service as he visited the bedside of her daughter Lucy at King’s College Hospital.
“The damage you’re doing to families like myself is terrible,” she told the minister. “We’re so lucky as a nation have our NHS – I feel like you’re criticising it all the time.”
Ms Pinnington-Auld suggested Tory ministers had unfairly blamed record waiting lists on the Covid crisis. “It’s not fair to blame it on the pandemic anymore. We had problems before – we were short of doctors, we were short of beds,” she said.
She added: “We are moving to a privatised system, like America, where the disparity in the health service between rich and poor is vast.”
Mr Barclay – taken aback by her heartfelt criticism – again refused to negotiate on an improved pay deal for NHS staff, despite nurses being set to strike again on Tuesday and ambulance crews set to start industrial action on Wednesday.
Ms Pinnington-Auld told him that her daughter was pushed off the “absolutely horrific” waiting list despite having a life-shortening condition, because of “the obscene number of people” waiting for treatment.
“Her care here has been absolutely amazing,” she told the minister. “The doctors and nurses – everyone has been brilliant, considering what they are under, considering the shortages of staff, considering the lack of resources.”
She added: “We have some brilliant experts and they are being worked to the bone … the level of care they provide is amazing – but they’re not being able to provide it in the way they want it because the resourcing is not there.”
Mr Barclay has refused to be drawn on whether other ministers wanted him to go further on NHS pay – again pointing to the pay review body offer made in February, which saw nurses offered an average 4 per cent pay hike.
Referring to the RCN demand of 5 per cent above inflation, he said: “It has to be balanced also between what is affordable to the economy as a whole. A 19 per cent pay demand, which is far in excess of what most of your viewers themselves will be receiving, is not affordable.”
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has vowed to stage a fresh wave of more severe strikes in January if ministers are not prepared to open talks in the 48 hours after its members walk out on Tuesday.
Patricia Marquis, England director for the RCN, said the union did not want protracted strikes – but warned that its mandate for industrial action covered the next six months.
And Unite leader Sharon Graham said Mr Barclay will get a “rude awakening” if he refuses to negotiate with health unions on pay, as she insisted the unions will not “blink first” to break the deadlock.
Ms Graham – whose union is co-ordinating Wednesday’s ambulance strikes with Unison and GMB – said the health secretary will “have to carry the can if patients suffer”.
Meanwhile, Saffron Cordery, interim chief executive of NHS Providers, said on Monday that 999 calls that affect “life and limb” will be answered by ambulance workers.
Asked whether ambulances would be available to an elderly person who fell and broke their hip, Mr Barclay said: “So people should continue to call 999 where they need an ambulance. But there will be impacts on patients as a result of the strike action.
“And that’s why I’m calling on the trade unions to make good on their statements that they will protect those with life-threatening conditions and emergency responses,” the minister added.
Ahead of a Cobra meeting with top officials on Monday, Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden said it is “not fair” that armed forces personnel are having to cover for striking workers over the festive period.
Urging unions to “give the military a break this Christmas”, Mr Dowden said in cases of less serious injuries, people should make their own way to hospital on Wednesday.