RISHI Sunak has claimed he "can get to grips” with the crisis facing the NHS as he admitted the health service was struggling.

The Prime Minister told the BBC he had left a meeting with NHS leaders with a “renewed sense of confidence and optimism” as he demanded “bold and radical” action to alleviate the winter crisis. 

Reducing NHS waiting times was one of five key pledges made by Sunak earlier this week with more nurses' strikes set to take place in England at the end of the month. 

Speaking on Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, Sunak said: “The NHS is undeniably under enormous pressure and I’ve spent today (Saturday) talking to NHS leaders all day in fact.

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“It’s an opportunity for me first of all to say thank you to them and their colleagues for the incredible job they’re doing not just at the moment but over the past two years. 

“But recovering from Covid is going to be tough and we’re seeing that play out on our TV screens every day and in communities up and down the country. 

“But actually I came away from all my meetings today with a renewed sense of confidence and optimism that we can get to grips with this problem.”

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine says at least 300 people a week have died because of delays in NHS A&E departments but the PM questioned these numbers. 

“The NHS themselves have said that they don’t recognise those numbers and would be careful about bandying them around.”

Sunak's comments come after the chair of BMA Scotland has said that there is a need for a “depoliticised” debate to solve the issues facing the NHS across the UK. 

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Steve Barclay suggested a “constructive approach” to pay negotiations with striking health workers, with increases on the table if unions agree to efficiency savings to make higher salaries more “affordable”. 

Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, Barclay said workers could get a significant pay boost from April – so long as staff accepted radical reforms to improve productivity. 

This comes in the same week the SNP condemned new anti-strike legislation which could potentially see unions sued. 

The RCN has rejected the Scottish Government's latest pay offer with strike dates set to be announced. 

Barclay said: “I remain ready to engage with unions on what the Government can do to support the workforce, and I look forward to talking with the trade unions to see how we make any settlement done through the independent pay body more affordable, where there are productivity and efficiency opportunities.”

The Health Secretary is set to meet with union leaders on Monday as he invites them to talk about a pay increase in April. 

England’s chief medical officer Sir Chris Witty and NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard were among those summoned to No 10 for a rare weekend meeting.

Sunak said he found the discussions “highly valuable” as he told health and social care leaders he recognised the “tough time” they have experienced over the last couple of years. 

“During the pandemic, we had to bring boldness and radicalism to how we did things in order to get through”, he said, according to Downing Street. 

“I think we need that same bold and radical approach now because a business-as-usual mindset won’t fix the challenges we face.”