Labour has called on the government to provide “a bit of accountability and a bit of honesty” as it accused the coalition of presiding over a “cut” in NHS spending during its term in office.
Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham claimed the government was giving a “false version of events” on health service expenditure.
He told MPs that earlier this month a watchdog had told health secretary Jeremy Hunt that government claims to have made real-terms increases in NHS spending for two years were misleading and should be withdrawn.
UK Statistics Authority chairman Andrew Dilnot issued the rebuke after upholding a complaint by Labour about statements made by prime minister David Cameron and others.
In a letter to Mr Hunt, he said a detailed analysis of the best-available Treasury data suggested real-terms health spending was lower in 2011-12 than in 2009-10.
At best, he concluded, because of the small size of the changes and uncertainties surrounding them, it might be fair to say spending had “changed very little”.
Speaking at the start of an Opposition day debate on NHS funding, Mr Burnham said the 2010 Conservative Party election manifesto stated it would increase health spending in real terms every year, and that this promise was carried into the coalition agreement.
Referring to Mr Dilnot’s letter, he said: “In other words, NHS spending lower in real terms after the first two years of the coalition than when Labour left office. It’s a cut, that is what the letter says. They come here today to try and con the public yet again that they are fulfilling their promise.”
Mr Burnham argued there was a “real mismatch between ministerial rhetoric and the reality on the ground in the NHS” which was “in danger of causing confusion”.
“If left unchallenged it may lead to unfair claims that the problems in the NHS are all down to its staff and nothing to do with the government.
“So today we need a bit of accountability and a bit of honesty, once and for all we will nail the myths, the spin, the sheer misrepresentation of the facts.”
The MP for Leigh claimed the NHS was showing signs of strain. He said: “Across the country, people can see the signs of an NHS in increasing distress, cataract operations being restricted, A&E departments, walk-in centres closed, hospitals full to bursting, some struggling for survival, over 7,000 nursing jobs lost - this is the reality.”
Addressing the government benches, he said: “They must think we are daft, but we are telling the facts for the country today and they will judge for themselves.
“When you put this whole picture together what we see is a tissue of obfuscation, misrepresentation of the real position on NHS spending.”