The NHS must move more care away from hospitals and into the community to become ‘fit for the future’, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said.
‘I want an NHS back on its feet,’ he told the Progressive Britain conference in London, ‘but I also want an NHS that is fit for the future.’
Sir Keir said that the government must make ‘three shifts’ in order to ‘fix the fundamentals’ of the NHS.
‘Shift one – we must move care away from hospitals and closer to the community, the NHS must become the Neighbourhood Health Service.
‘I’ll put it bluntly – at the moment we aren’t good enough at treating people early in the community. We leave it to hospitals – and quite often that is too late.’
This would be achieved, said Sir Keir, by modernising the appointments system for general practice and offering digital consultations for patients.
According to the Labour leader, tackling community care would also require an effort to ‘fix the backdoor problem’ of hospital beds being blocked by patients already fit for discharge.
‘We’ll make good on the integration of health and social care. Backing successful community models like the centre at Bromley-by-Bow where they bring together in one place – doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, social carers – to provide joined up care in the community, keeping people out of hospital,’ he said.
A technological ‘revolution’ and shift towards prevention in the NHS made up the remaining two shifts proposed.
He proposed bans on advertising junk food and vapes to children, as well as putting ‘specialist access’ to mental health services in every school.
On his plans to implement more technology in the health services, Sir Keir said that this would be ‘a move from an analogue to a digital NHS,’ adding: ‘Take artificial intelligence. AI will change the nature of healthcare – and Britain is good at AI’.
Technology provides more choice and power for patients, and ‘saves lives,’ he said.