Labour will deliver the speed of care patients want, Wes Streeting says

- Advertisement -

Labour will deliver the NHS care that patients want, the shadow health secretary has said, though he acknowledged it could take time.

In a speech to the King’s Fund in central London, Wes Streeting reiterated Labour’s pledges on the NHS, saying the party would train 7,500 more doctors and 10,000 more nurses every year, including recruiting more medics from within the UK.

Mr Streeting said he would boost the range of health professionals working alongside GPs to ease pressure on primary care, including more use of pharmacists to give things such as vaccinations, wider use of nurses within practices and, for example, allowing opticians to refer people directly to eye specialists.

He said he did not think that was quite right, but that was how it felt to patients.

Mr Streeting pledged to end the 8am scramble for GP appointments, repeating the pledge that patients would be given more choice and ability to book appointments online.

The MP was asked whether, given the length of time it takes to train a doctor, patients would be waiting as long to see a GP at the end of a first Labour government as they are at the moment?

He replied: “If Tony Blair had stood here in 1996 and said the next Labour government is going to deliver 48-hour access to see a GP … I think in 1996, given the state of the NHS then, people would have laughed him out of the room and said, ‘he’s not going to achieve that, look at the scale of the challenge’.

Labour Party plans for GP reform
Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting set out Labour’s plans for GP reform, at the King’s Fund think tank in London (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

He said the country has to change, adding: “We have got to stop the obsession with simply pouring more money into hospitals, we have to think about what the primary care system looks like and if we grab that mantle of reform, there is no reason why we can’t turn the situation around, and to see far better outcomes by the end of the first term of a Labour government.

“And it would be my hope that if we show that improvement in the first term of a Labour government, people would give us a second term, so that over the course of a 10-year period, we can give people an NHS that they’re proud of.”

In his speech, Mr Streeting stressed that Labour backs GPs.

He added: “I know that GPs often feel that when Labour highlights waiting times for a GP appointment or face-to-face care, that we’re having a go at them.

“Actually, we’re having a go at the Government for leaving general practice over-stretched and under-doctored.

GP surgery
Mr Streeting said the Government had ‘over-stretched and under-doctored’ GP services (PA)

“Our plan to cut GP waiting times goes to the heart of the crisis in the NHS – it is a workforce crisis.

“We have lost 2,000 GPs since 2015. GPs are busting a gut, but they are overburdened, forced to look after an extra 350 patients each.

“It is not sustainable.”

He said Labour would “launch the biggest expansion of medical training in history, so patients can be seen on time again”.

Professor Kamila Hawthorne, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, said: “GPs and our teams are working tirelessly to deliver safe, timely and appropriate care, and to give patients the choice of appointment they want.

Sir Keir Starmer
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer met health and social care students at Middlesbrough College on Friday (Danny Lawson/PA)

She said GPs “share our patients’ frustration when they struggle to access our care, however, this is not down to GPs and their hard-working teams, but due to decades of under-funding and poor resource planning”.

She added: “We are delivering more appointments overall compared to before the pandemic, but with 852 fewer full-time fully qualified GPs compared to 2019.

“It is not too late to turn this dire situation around to revitalise general practice as a clinician’s career of choice, and restore continuity of care for patients.

“The forthcoming primary care recovery plan and long-awaited NHS workforce plan will be key opportunities to do this.”

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Latest Stories

- Advertisement -

UK News

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Read the latest free supplements

Read the Town Crier, Le Rocher and a whole host of other subjects like mortgage advice, business, cycling, travel and property.