Millions waiting more than a fortnight for GP appointments each month – Labour

Nearly five million patients every month wait more than a fortnight for a GP appointment, Labour has claimed ahead of a speech setting out its own vision for cutting NHS waiting times.

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting will repeat a party promise to train 7,500 more doctors and 10,000 more nurses a year as the Opposition hits out at “broken promises” to improve the health service.

In the past five months, 24 million appointments have taken place more than two weeks after being requested – almost five million a month on average, according to Labour’s analysis of NHS England figures.

Then-health secretary Therese Coffey had promised to tackle the issues with a “laser-like focus” but was ridiculed by Mr Streeting for offering a “Sesame Street” plan without details of how it would be actioned.

On Friday, the shadow health secretary will give a speech at the King’s Fund think tank, setting out the specifics of Labour’s own proposals for the NHS.

The party has already pledged to train thousands more doctors and nurses by abolishing the non-dom tax status.

But critics have argued that the discontent among existing junior doctors over pay and working conditions could undermine efforts to improve the service through an increase in medical school places.

Ahead of the speech, Mr Streeting said: “Patients are finding it impossible to get a GP appointment when they need one, after 13 years of Conservative broken promises and understaffing of the NHS.

“These unacceptable waiting times mean illness will go undiagnosed for longer, while patients are left in pain and discomfort for weeks, or even months.

“Labour will fix the front door to the NHS, starting by doubling medical school places, so we train 7,500 extra doctors and 10,000 more nurses a year.

“We will pay for it by abolishing the non-dom tax status, because patients need doctors and nurses more than the wealthiest need a tax break.”

A Conservative Party spokesman defended its record on doctor recruitment and accused Labour of not being “serious” in its plans.

He said: “If Labour were serious about cutting waiting lists, they would have backed our plan to get more doctors into the NHS; instead they voted to send doctors into early retirement.

“Labour’s latest unfunded scheme to restructure the NHS has been slammed by doctors as ‘dangerous’ and costing ‘a fortune’.

“Meanwhile, in the past 12 months in England, we have recruited over 5,100 more doctors – making it easier to see a GP and helping to cut waiting lists.”

The Department of Health and Social Care has been contacted for comment.

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