PM David Cameron stands by 'unpopular' NHS changes

  • 9 March 2012
  • From the section Home

PM David Cameron has defended proposed changes to the National Health Service, saying they were "right" despite being "clearly not that popular".

He was challenged by School Reporter Poppy, who said she and her mum - a nurse - were concerned about them.

Mr Cameron also admitted completing most levels of the computer game Angry Birds, as it was "quite addictive".

All three UK party leaders are being questioned by youngsters as part of the BBC News School Report project.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg's interview was broadcast on Radio 4's The World at One on Thursday, and Labour leader Ed Miliband will follow on Monday.

PM David Cameron gets a grilling from the School Reporters at 10 Downing Street

Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish leaders will also be on the receiving end of the School Reporters' questions.

'Difficult question'

Poppy was one of 12 students from schools across the UK who were at the Cabinet Room in 10 Downing St to question the prime minister on issues relevant to young people and their future.

She told Mr Cameron doctors and nurses did not agree with the proposed NHS changes, which would open up the service to greater competition with the private sector, and added that there had even been a demonstration outside her London hotel against them.

But Mr Cameron insisted there were "lots of doctors who do believe they are the right changes".

"Why am I doing all these things when they are clearly not that popular?" he said.

"I happen to think they are right - because of our ageing population, because of all the new treatments and drugs, if we don't change the way we do the health service there's a real danger it wouldn't be able to cope with the pressure in future."

Will from Corby Business College asked Mr Cameron why budget cuts had been so severe - saying his county council had been forced to turn off street lights at night, "putting our safety in jeopardy and giving the locals less confidence to go out at night".

That was a "difficult question", Mr Cameron said - but he explained that the country had been borrowing more than it received in taxes, creating a "huge overdraft".

He said it was up to local government bodies to decide how to handle their reductions, and said they were encouraged to target bureaucracy rather than frontline services.

Image caption The BBC's Martha Kearney helped the young reporters prepare

And Mr Cameron told Sophie from St Teilo's Church school that these cuts would mean it wasn't just left to her generation to deal with.

'Tough stuff'

Danny from Copland Community School put the same question to Mr Cameron as he had to his deputy, Mr Clegg - what was he doing to stop young people joining gangs?

"I think it's a serious problem and I wish I had all the answers," Mr Cameron said.

He said there was no one single answer but families, school, and voluntary service all had a part to play as well as policing - "a bit of tough stuff".

Prime Minister David Cameron on his Angry Birds addiction

Mr Cameron went on to talk about policing, saying he was sure there was more police could do to make sure there was a visible police presence on the streets.

"Our streets aren't safe enough," Mr Cameron admitted.

In response to some lighter questions, Mr Cameron admitted his fondness for Angry Birds, but insisted he didn't spend too long on the game.

And asked, like Mr Clegg, whether his mum told him what to do, Mr Cameron said she sometimes "makes a few gentle suggestions and hints, in the way mums do - and you sort of get the message, without having to be told absolutely what to do".

The full version of Mr Cameron's interview will be available on the School Report website on News Day on 15 March.

School Reporters' engagement with political issues does not stop at interviewing political leaders.

At many of the schools taking part in the project, local MPs and councillors are also called upon to give their views on a huge range of topics.

School Report is an annual BBC project which helps young people make their own news reports for a real audience.

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