Left-wing principles should not trump access to care, says Wes Streeting

Left-wing principles should not trump “timely access to care” when it comes to using private providers in the NHS, Labour’s shadow health secretary has said.

Wes Streeting defended his party’s plan to use spare private sector capacity to get NHS waiting lists down, saying that while “middle-class lefties cry ‘betrayal’”, the “real betrayal” was a “two-tier system that see people like them treated faster”.

Writing in The Sun newspaper, Mr Streeting said his party would not put more money into the health service without major reform, saying this “would be like pouring water into a leaky bucket”.

“The problems with the NHS are clear. It’s a 20th century service that hasn’t changed with the times and isn’t fit for the modern era.”

He added that Labour would “bring our analogue service into the digital age”, reducing the amount of time “wasted by outdated equipment” while also “cutting the red tape that ties up GPs’ time”.

Mr Streeting has previously been criticised by those on the left of his party for his willingness to use private providers to provide NHS care, with some arguing Labour should increase funding for the health service instead.

But speaking on the BBC’s Today programme, he said it was “pragmatic” to use spare capacity to reduce waiting lists, as “anyone with half an ounce of sense knows that it takes time to build (NHS) capacity back up”.

He added there was also a “principled” argument for doing so, saying: “I don’t think I could look someone in the eye who is waiting for months and months, sometimes over a year, in pain and agony for treatment, I couldn’t look that person in the eye and say they should wait longer because my principles trump their timely access to care.”

Mr Streeting also made a plea for greater cross-party cooperation on fixing social care, saying: “We’ve got to end this endless cycle where politicians from both of the main parties torpedo each others plans.”

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Mr Streeting told the BBC: “I would hope that the next Labour government won’t just provide an answer to the immediate crisis in social care, but will set out a long-term direction for investment and reform that can command consensus across the divide and can last for generations, as we did on the NHS in 1948.”

His comments came as Labour prepared to set out its latest policy on the NHS, which involve digitising the “red book” parents use for their children’s medical records as part of a series of reforms to the NHS app.

Parents and the NHS would be able to see if children are behind on jabs or check-ups through a new digital record, with automatic notifications to prompt them to book appointments.

The party hopes this will help boost MMR vaccination rates, which have fallen in recent years while measles outbreaks have become more common.

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