The Prime Minister said Dr Dan Poulter was “wrong” to quit the Conservatives over concerns about the NHS as he spoke publicly about the Suffolk MP’s jump to Labour for the first time.

Asked about Dr Poulter’s shock defection during a visit to East Anglia on Monday, Rishi Sunak said: “I think he was wrong.”

“We’ve got a record number of doctors and nurses, we’re treating more people than we’ve ever done before,” he said.

“After a difficult few years because of the pandemic, the NHS is very much on the road to recovery and you can see that in the last set of figures.”

East Anglian Daily Times: Rishi Sunak spoke out about Dr Dan Poulter's defection to Labour for the first time during a visit to Essex on MondayRishi Sunak spoke out about Dr Dan Poulter's defection to Labour for the first time during a visit to Essex on Monday (Image: PA)

Mr Sunak said NHS waiting lists “have come down by around 200,000” over the last five months, partly because of a move to encourage patients to visit pharmacists.

He added: “That’s a real step forward and it’s just improving the speed at which people can get healthcare.”

Dr Poulter, a former Conservative health minister and MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, announced he was crossing the floor to Labour on Saturday in anger over the NHS crisis.

READ MORE: Suffolk MP Dan Poulter tells PM only Labour has the answer on NHS problems

He said on Monday that his work as an NHS mental health doctor had informed the decision, saying: “The service and the NHS of today is so very different to the service of 10 or 15 years ago when I was practising full time, and it’s not providing the right quality of care for my patients.

“It has become increasingly difficult for me to look at patients and my medical colleagues, my constituents in the eye as a Conservative MP, because of that mismanagement of the health service – because of the fact that patients are not receiving the service that they deserve.”

East Anglian Daily Times: Suffolk MP Dr Dan Poulter has joined LabourSuffolk MP Dr Dan Poulter has joined Labour (Image: Denise Bradley)

Dr Poulter will be a Labour MP until the next general election but will not be standing again in the Central Suffolk and North Ipswich constituency, a traditionally safe Tory seat where he was first elected in 2010.

His decision to leave the Tories is the second defection under Mr Sunak, after former deputy party chairman Lee Anderson left the party for Reform UK earlier this year.

It could spook already restive Tory MPs who are considering moving against Mr Sunak in the case of a disastrous set of local and mayoral elections results for the Conservatives on Thursday.