Sir Keir Starmer has vowed to end the ‘8am scramble for a GP appointment’ and ‘pay staff properly’ if Labour wins the next general election.
The leader of the opposition set out his plans for UK healthcare in a speech to the Labour Party conference in Liverpool on Tuesday, claiming that the current Conservative government had ‘brought our NHS to its knees’.
Sir Keir pledged to invest money in boosting capacity to provide more appointments, more diagnostic tests and more operations.
Instead of ‘pensioners waiting weeks, months, sometimes waiting years just to get the care that they need’, Sir Keir promised to ensure that ‘you will be seen more quickly in an NHS clearing the backlog seven days a week’.
The Labour leader also vowed to guarantee mental health treatment ‘when you need it’, and to end ‘dangerous waits for a cancer diagnosis’.
Labour has pledged to invest £1.6bn in the NHS, with £1.1bn used to provide staff with additional evening and weekend overtime shifts to clear backlogs.
According to the party, the funding would enable the NHS to carry out an extra two million operations, scans and appointments in the first year of government.
Under Labour’s proposals, the money for the NHS would be raised by abolishing the non-dom tax status that allows people who live and work in Britain to pay their taxes overseas.
‘The non-dom tax status is a legal loophole that allows some of the richest people in the world to avoid paying tax in Britain,’ said Sir Keir.
‘That’s money we could invest in our NHS – that’s always been our priority. And right now, the biggest challenge is cutting waiting lists.
‘So, we will invest that money in boosting capacity. We will get the NHS working round the clock. And we will pay staff properly to do it.’
Responding to the speech, Professor Nicola Ranger, Royal College of Nursing (RCN) chief nurse, said: ‘To end sticking plaster politics, Labour would need to invest in the nation’s most trusted profession and where they work.
‘When one nurse is left looking after ten, 15 or more patients, then governments need to act in the interests of patient and professional safety.’
Professor Ranger also said Labour would need clear plans to recruit and retain more nursing staff to get waiting times down and improve care.
‘This starts with paying nursing staff fairly and giving those we clapped a better pay award,’ she added.