The leader of the Liberal Democrats has visited the hospital in Reading to call for more action to improve the health service.

Sir Ed Davey, party leader and MP for Kingston and Surbiton, visted the Royal Berkshire Hospital to highlight issues faced by the NHS.

He said: “The Liberal Democrats are finding up and down the country voters are most worried about the state of the health service.

“We’re finding that they, even lifelong Conservative voters, feel let down on the health service.

“This is a great hospital, people are working incredibly hard but they need more support from the government, and they’re not getting it.

“Although they’ve been doing a great job, I’m really impressed by them, the government just needs to get behind them.”

During the visit, Sir Ed met with hospital leadership.

Speaking about what he learned, Sir Ed said: “The big issue is staff recruitment and retention, and they’re doing really well.

“They’re looking after the staff well, the staff are very positive about how the hospital is run, they put care of patients right at the top of the list, but there’s not enough staff.”

He added that places are filled by agency workers who cost more to recruit.

Sir Ed also visited Wokingham to support party members there, where they are hoping to maintain control of the borough council, led by councillor Clive Jones (Liberal Democrats, Hawkedon).

Cllr Jones is also the Lib Dem MP candidate for Wokingham, hoping to unseat Sir John Redwood, the Conservative MP who’s represented the area for 36 years.

Sir Ed said: “I’d like to say to John Redwood and all these Conservatives, what have you been doing all this time? Why have you been wasting so much of taxpayers money and why are you failing our NHS?

“Because we haven’t got the staff we need, because you’re not treating our properly, you’re not recruiting them properly and you’re not retaining the properly.

“And they’ve been allowing these private sector agencies to make millions and millions of pounds and getting away with taxpayers money and not providing the service they need, and I am angry about it!”

The visit also comes as a Freedom of Information request from the Liberal Democrats have revealed ambulance crew members in the South Central Ambulance Service have taken off 12,889 days due to poor mental health in 2022.

Cllr Jones said:  “We must properly recognise the service of ambulance crews by giving them a fair pay rise, improving working conditions, and recruiting more paramedics so that those who are still in the service know that the cavalry is coming.”

The visit was attended by cllr Anne Thompson (Liberal Democrats, Tilehurst) and other party candidates seeking election this year.

Earlier in the day, Sir Ed visited the Freely Fruity charity in Wokingham, an orchard where trees and fruits are planted for the community.

Sir Ed said: “I think the people who have set this up are geniuses, they are very committed ot the thier community, committed to the environment and they’re committed to people who are in food poverty.”

On the Local Election campaign, particularly in Wokingham Borough, where the Liberal Democrats are hoping to retain power, Sir Ed said: “I’m really confident from what we’ve seen on the doorstep is that people realise they need to give the Liberal Democrats a majority on Wokingham council.

“It’ll be difficult, we’re the growing party, people are coming to us on all sides, I’m increasingly confident we can make progress.”

The Liberal Democrats rule Wokingham Borough Council in a partnership with Labour. They previously had support from Independent councillors who left a partnership.