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  1. ITV Report

Boris Johnson reluctant to look at 'terrible' photo of four-year-old boy sleeping on hospital floor

Boris Johnson has apologised to the family of a boy who was forced to sleep on a hospital floor despite being initially reluctant to look at the "terrible, terrible" photo of four-year-old Jack Williment-Barr.

The Prime Minister said he had "every possible sympathy" with those who have had a bad experience with the NHS after he first refused to look at the image of the young boy presented to him by ITV Calendar's Political Correspondent Joe Pike during an interview on Monday.

Mr Johnson took the phone and placed it in his pocket before eventually looking at the image.

Sarah Williment covered her son, Jack, with coats to keep him warm as he waited for a bed at Leeds General Infirmary, where she had taken him last Tuesday fearing he had pneumonia.

He was eventually moved to a ward, where he waited for five hours on a trolley before a bed was found at 3am, Ms Williment told the Daily Mirror.

Diagnosed with flu and tonsillitis, Jack was allowed to be taken home at lunchtime.

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Mr Johnson told ITV News: "It's a terrible, terrible photo and I apologise obviously to the families and all those who have terrible experiences in the NHS," he said.

"But what we are doing is supporting the NHS and on the whole I think patients in the NHS have a much, much better experience than this poor kid had."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was damning of the Prime Minister and his response to the incident.

"He's had nine years to properly fund the NHS and a child being treated on the floor is a disgrace to our society," Mr Corbyn said.

"There it is, that's the image [of the sick child], that's a child with pneumonia in modern Britain, that is a disgrace. We need to invest in our public services and end austerity."

Asked about how bad the latest A&E waiting times are, Corbyn said: "Very bad indeed; more people waiting than for years and years, more people waiting for elective surgery, more people waiting for cancer treatment. We simply have to invest in our NHS."

Health Secretary Matt Hancock visited Leeds General on Monday evening and said he had "apologised personally" to Jack's mother Sarah.

Asked about Mr Johnson's initially unwillingness to look at the picture of Jack on the hospital floor, the Health Secretary dismissed suggestions the Prime Minister's reaction showed a lack of empathy on his part.

"I think what matters is not who looks at what when, it's what are people doing," Mr Hancock said.

"And what we're doing here at the Leeds General Infirmary is tripling the size of the children's unit to make sure that this doesn't happen again."

A video posted to social media showed the Health Secretary heckled by protesters as he left Leeds General Infirmary.

Demonstrators shouted "shame on you" and "you are not welcome in this hospital, you are not welcome in this country".

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The controversy over the image came as the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) release statistics which show more than one in every 20 patients has to wait over 12 hours for a hospital bed.

Statistics from the first week of December shows 5,171 of the 103,099 patients seen in A&E were stuck there for more than 12 hours and only 68% were seen within the four-hour target time.

The waiting times are the worst on record and 10% lower than this time last year.

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Lib Dems leader Jo Swinson said the images of the young boy were "absolutely heartbreaking."

"It's a really strong and powerful example of how the NHS is being starved of the resources it needs," Ms Swinson told ITV News.

She said more money needed to be invested into the NHS and the Lib Dems have said they will raise that money by putting another penny on income tax.

Ms Swinson added: "We need to make sure we have the doctors and nurses to treat our patients at a time when there is huge staff shortages."

Having earlier apologised on LBC to patients, the Prime Minister said on camera: "Obviously, I want everybody to have the best possible experience in the NHS and I have every possible sympathy with people who don't.

"On the whole, I think the NHS do a wonderful, wonderful job - I support them massively, but we need to be putting money in."

Ms Williment, 34, told the Mirror she would now switch allegiance and vote Labour in Thursday’s election, owing to her concerns about the state of the NHS.

She said: “I am frustrated about the system and the lack of beds, which I am presuming is due to a lack of funding to the NHS to deliver the services that are required.”

Caring for patients in corridors has been criticised and the RCEM want to see this ended.

The RCEM's Dr Katherine Henderson said: "Many patients are now getting often life-changing news while stranded on a trolley in a corridor.

"This cannot be right, and we must strive to put an end to 'corridor care'. We are clearly in the worst state we've ever been in as we enter the true winter season."

The newly released statistics from the RCEM were taken from 50 hospitals across the NHS.

Additionally, the RCEM have warned the issue is greater as official waiting times start when the decision to admit a patient is made rather than their arrival at hospital.

The NHS will release their own figures on Friday.

The Prime Minister had faced calls to apologise to the family from shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth.

He said: “Boris Johnson should personally apologise to Jack and his family. A decade of Tory cuts has brought us to this crisis in our NHS.

“If the Tories win on Thursday, patients including children will suffer five more years of this. We need a Labour government to save our NHS.”