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UK PM apologizes to NHS patients over record treatment delays

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May visits Frimley Park Hospital near Camberley, Britain, January 4, 2018. (Photo by Reuters)

British Prime Minister Theresa May has apologized to patients after the National Health Service cancelled thousands of medical operations and hospital admissions caused by the winter crisis.

"I know it is difficult, I know it is frustrating, I know it is disappointing for people and I apologize," May said Thursday after visiting a hospital outside London.

The British premier said she can only hope that operations can be reinstated as soon as possible.

NHS is the publicly funded national healthcare system for England and one of the four National Health Services of the United Kingdom.

Her comments come amid growing criticism of the government’s response to what is now being described as the healthcare system’s winter crisis.

Earlier this week, officials at the NHS recommended that hospitals cancel all non-urgent appointments and operations until next month, meaning about 50,000 operations may be postponed.

A flu outbreak, colder weather and high levels of respiratory illnesses have put hospitals in England under strain with many operating at or near full capacity, with long waits for treatment in emergency rooms.

In June, the British Medical Association (BMA) accused the government of deliberately ignoring concerns about the country’s crisis-hit health service.

The leading doctors blamed the British government for a health system running on fumes in the absence of necessary health spending.

Critics have warned that May is making the NHS staffing crisis worse by refusing to guarantee the rights of European citizens.

UK’s opposition Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said May's response to the crisis was "not good enough."

"It is not good enough for @Theresa_May to say NHS problems are "frustrating" and "disappointing" when the Tory Government has caused this crisis,” he tweeted.

"Nurses, doctors and patients are pleading with her to properly fund our health service, but she is ignoring them."

The NHS is already under pressure because of a long-term failure to hire enough people.

The British Red Cross warned in January that the NHS is facing a “humanitarian crisis” as hospitals and ambulance services struggle to keep up with rising demand.

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