Leading figures in the NHS have attacked Jeremy Hunt for frightening the public and demoralising staff after he criticised some hospitals for only meeting minimum targets, it has been reported.
The representatives of GPs, nurses and physicians hit back at Heath Secretary following his speech at Nuffield Trust's health policy conference in Dorking, Surrey, when he warned that too many middle-of-the-road hospitals are "hitting targets but missing the point".
Dr Clare Gerada, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, said politicians should be looking inwardly and supporting staff. She told the Guardian: "The constant publicity about how bad the NHS is has the potential to frighten the people who need it most, who might think it's not a safe place to get the care they need."
She said that most people treated at hospital will be properly and safely treated.
Dr Peter Carter, the leader of Britain's nurses, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, agreed.
"If the public and staff feel the NHS is being frequently portrayed as a failing organisation, then users of the service and people working within the service will feel demoralised," he said.
He added that while parts of the NHS have been appalling, overall the service is something to be proud of.
Mr Hunt's comments came in the wake of the Mid-Staffordshire health scandal.
He said: "Coasting can kill. Not straight away, but over time as complacency sets in, organisations look inwards, standards drop and then, suddenly, something gives.
"The lesson of Mid Staffs is surely that we need to understand why they fail in the first place - which means tackling mediocrity and low expectations before they turn into failure and tragedy."