LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s National Health Service recorded its worst ever performance in treating patients on emergency wards last month, a blow to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s claim that only his Conservatives can safeguard the cherished institution.

FILE PHOTO: Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets staff during his visit to The Princess Alexandra hospital in Harlow, Essex, for an announcement on new patient scanning equipment in Harlow, Britain September 27, 2019. REUTERS/Stefan Rousseau/Pool

The state-run NHS has provided free at the point of use healthcare for more than 70 years and is a highly emotive issue before the Dec. 12 election, with voters rating it as the second most important subject after Brexit.

NHS England said on Thursday the percentage of patients seen within four hours in all accident and emergency departments stood at 83.6% in October, down from the 85.2% the month before and 89.1% a year ago.

This was the worst performance since records began in 2004. The overall target of 95% was last…

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Sliding UK health service performance sparks pre-election war of words
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