THE government is using the Keogh report into failures at East Lancashire hospitals to score political points and damage the reputation of the NHS, according to Labour leader Ed Miliband.

The leader of the opposition visited Darwen yesterday ((FRI)) with Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Rossendale and Darwen, Will Straw, to meet members of the public and discuss their concerns about the cost of living.

When asked about the hospital trust, Mr Miliband said: “I think that when things go wrong in the health service, Labour should be the first to say that they need to be put right.

“But I think that the problem is that this government wants to paint an appalling picture of the health service in order to undermine people’s belief in it.

“Some of the things that were in the Keogh report were absolutely inexcusable and appalling, and you’ve got to sort those problems out.

“But what you cannot have is an attempt to basically smear the good name of the health service completely, because the vast majority of doctors and nurses are doing a good and decent job.”

Mr Miliband also spoke about the controversial Daily Mail article published earlier this week.

He said it was an attempt to sully his character, and described it as ‘the cheapest trick in the book’.

He also joked with Will Straw about having a father who attracts controversy.

Gesturing towards Mr Straw, he said: “He’s used to having a dad who’s being attacked, so he knows the feeling!”

The Labour leader also expressed his concerns around free schools, and said that if elected, his government would ‘halt their expansion’.

Mr Miliband went on to talk about Labour’s plans for extending apprenticeships, repealing the bedroom tax, and dealing with the spiralling cost of living.

He said: “The cost of living crisis is the biggest issue on so many people’s minds.

“For a long time in this country, people expected that if the economy was going to grow everybody would do well out of it, and then somewhere along that way, that link got broken between your family finances and the growing wealth of the country, and I think we’ve got to mend that link.

“We’ve got to do it by creating good paying jobs, by making sure that when it comes to the economy growing it’s not just those at the top doing well but the gains are fairly shared, and also ensuring that the big companies like the energy companies don’t rip people off.”