TONY Blair’s former health secretary has warned the new Labour Government faces huge challenges with the NHS on the horizon.

Alan Milburn, who became Secretary of State for Health under Mr Blair in 1999, felt the health service had never been in such a poor state.

Speaking at the Northumberland general election count, the Stocksfield resident praised the party’s landslide win – but cautioned that there was a lot of work to be done.

Mr Milburn, who was born in Whitehaven in Cumbria before growing up in Tow Law, County Durham, introduced a number of reforms in the health service.

READ MORE: Hexham's constituency turns red in historic election win

These included the introduction of NHS foundation trusts, which were described by Mr Milburn as getting the private sector into the NHS to work alongside the public sector.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service at the count, Mr Milburn said: “The starting point for health is to acknowledge how bad it is.

“I have been around health policy for 30 years, and it has never been as bad as it is now. The state of the system, not just hospitals, is awful.

“There are 7.5 million people on waiting lists, massive staff shortages – you name it. However, I have got no doubt that Wes (Streeting) is going to be a first-class health secretary.

“It will be about how we reform the system. When we made progress in the early 2000s, we had very high waiting lists and it was the reforms that made the difference.”

Mr Milburn was also delighted with the party’s performance across the country and in the North East.

He continued: “Nationally, it’s a seismic evening. I was fortunate enough to be part of the 1997 Government, and it’s something on that scale, which is amazing.

“It speaks to the fact that the country is ready for change. I think the country is ready for a period of stability.

“I think, under Keir Starmer, the Labour Party has changed and become a party that is in touch with working people.

“We can’t take anything for granted. A lot of people have lent us their vote – that support is conditional on the party delivering the goods.”