A CONSERVATIVE minister was forced to deny that the government want to privatise the NHS and repeatedly called a liar when Question Time came to Hereford.

Margot James, who represented the government on the BBC One show last night, insisted the Tories fully support the NHS and have put more money into health budgets.

A member of the audience claimed the government is "ideologically underfunding the NHS so they can make the argument for privatisation".

But the newly-appointed culture minister hit back saying: "nothing could be further from the truth."

Ms James said: "I'm very sorry there's such enthusiasm for what you just said because it is utterly untrue.

"I've been accused of setting the NHS up to fail so that we can privatise it. Nothing could be further from the truth."

There were shouts of "liar" from the audience at The Courtyard as the Tory minister tried to defend herself.

"No I am not a liar, I have spent time volunteering in the NHS over the four or five years," she added.

"I am not a liar I believe in the NHS and so does my government and we do put more money into it."

As the calls from the audience grew louder, Ms James said: "I'm sorry I'm going to carry on answering this question.

"I do accept there's more demographic pressures on it that is true. But it is not true to say we don't invest in the NHS and it is an utter lie to say we don't believe in it because we do."

The audience member who asked about privatisation said: "What I don't understand is there is so much public support to put more money into our NHS, to pay our nurses more, to support our nurses and reinstate the bursary programme because if you're going to be a nurse and you're going to qualify earning less than £30,000 a year but you ended up in so much debt with so high interest rates to pay.

"Why would you do it? It doesn't make any sense."

A Hereford nurse was another member of the audience to talk about the problems affecting the NHS and claimed her colleagues were leaving to go to agencies or the private hospital 'up the road'.

Another NHS nurse said: "Nurses are leaving to go back abroad because they can't believe the conditions they are working under in our wonderful NHS.

She added: "I know a nurse who left very recently because she is earning less than her 17-year-old son who has no qualifications and is an apprentice and that is a disgrace."

The recording of the programme got off to a shaky start when there were problems with the broadcast and the start was delayed.

Against a background an apology read: "We are sorry for the break in this programme and are trying to correct the fault."