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PM and health secretary to host roundtable over looming NHS winter pressures

Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Steve Barclay are meeting health experts today as they seek to "mitigate winter pressures" hitting the NHS this year.

The pair will hold a roundtable with clinical leaders in Downing Street, aiming to "improve performance and drive forward planning" to ease the impact on the health service in the coming months - as well as discussing longer-term problems such as cutting waiting lists.

Mr Sunak said the government had "started planning for winter earlier than before", adding: "We're bringing together the best minds in healthcare who all have one shared aim - protecting patients and making sure they get the care they need this winter."

And Mr Barclay said he was "working closely with NHS and social care leaders to provide additional hospital capacity, protect emergency care and harness the full potential of technology to deliver the best possible service and intensify our efforts to tackle waiting lists".

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But while the event will be attended by NHS England's chief executive Amanda Pritchard and chairs of medical royal colleges, Labour attacked the government for failing to invite frontline staff.

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting told Sky News: "I think it is appalling that the prime minister is having a photo op in Number 10 today rather than getting the doctors to knock some heads together and thrash out a deal, because as the ONS [Office for National Statistics] reports, it's not just that we're seeing significant numbers of delayed and cancelled appointments in operations - which is awful for patients - this is harming the economy."

Labour today claimed around 36,000 cancer appointments had been cancelled due to industrial action in the sector since December last year.

And it criticised both Mr Sunak and Mr Barclay for refusing to meet with unions over their grievances with pay and conditions.

Mr Streeting added: "There were no national strikes in the NHS during 13 years of the last Labour government. If Rishi Sunak has given up on governing, he should call an election so Labour can restore the NHS to good health."