Wes Streeting: We won't force NHS staff to work evenings and weekends to cut waiting lists

Wes Streeting: We won't force NHS staff to work evenings and weekends to cut waiting lists
Gabrielle Wilde

By Gabrielle Wilde

Published: 29/05/2024

- 12:15

The Shadow Health Secretary spoke to GB News this morning

Wes Streeting has said the Labour Party would not force NHS staff to work evenings and weekends as part of their headline policy to cut waiting lists.

The Shadow Health Secretary also said he supports the decision to block Diane Abbott from standing as a Labour candidate at the General Election.

Speaking on GB News, Streeting said: “What we’re talking about is an extra 40,000 extra appointments every week, using reform that’s been tried and tested at a small number of hospitals like Guy’s & St Thomas’s.

“Taking that same approach and adopting it right across the NHS, putting £1.1 billion into the pocket of NHS staff to deliver those evening and weekend clinics.

“I accept that there are already staff who are doing lots of work at evening and weekends and there may be some staff who say, I can’t take on any more shifts. And the reassurance I want to provide them is that nobody is going to be forced to do this.

“The approach we’ve seen in London, Leeds and other parts of the country has been one where staff have opted to do it albeit paid fairly the overtime rate to do it.

“That’s had amazing results. At Guys & St Thomas’s, they got this clinic up and running within six weeks and are now doing on one day the same number of procedures they would normally do in the space of a week.

“So that investment, linked to that reform would deliver better results alongside doubling the number of diagnostic scanners - but AI enabled scanners so we can get through the 1.6 million people who are waiting anxiously for those diagnostic tests and scans.

“And finally, we are going to use spare capacity in the independent sector. We can already see people who can afford it paying to go private and being seen faster. I’m not going to see working class people left behind.

“We’ll use that spare capacity, funded on NHS terms, so no one pays a penny for it, and also making better use of things like high street opticians to reduce the pressure on the 600,000 waiting for eye care in the NHS and freeing up the things that only the NHS can do.

“So this is a serious plan that gives me the confidence that in five years we can hit the 18-week waiting time standard that Labour met when we were last in government. And I urge people: do not give the matches back to the arsonists in the Conservative Party who led us to this point in the NHS with the worst crisis in history.

“Labour delivered the shortest waiting times, the highest patient satisfaction ever when we were last in government. We did it before, we can do it again.

“It’s a fully costed, fully funded package. The £1.6 billion package for NHS waiting times is funded by clamping down on tax avoidance, closing the Non-Dom loopholes that, surprise surprise, the Tories have left in for their mates - leopards don’t change their spots.

“And that means we’ll be able to fund this capacity in the NHS, linked to reform. And that’s what people can expect from the NHS because as I’ve heard from GB News viewers before, whether they work in the NHS or they use the NHS, we can all see examples of waste and inefficiency. And at a time when people have been absolutely clobbered in terms of higher taxes, higher rents, higher bills, higher mortgages, we can’t just say to the country that we’re just going to tax people more to pay for the NHS.

“We’ve got to make sure that £1.6 billion that goes to the NHS is money well spent because it’s your money and we take it seriously.

“The British Medical Association is not and never has not been affiliated to the Labour party or donated to the Labour party. The Labour party’s got some scars on its back going right back to Nye Bevan’s days when the BMA initially opposed the creation of the NHS. Of course, their position’s now changed, we’ve won the argument, and we’ve moved on.

“On this central challenge of how much money we’re spending on the NHS today: I think it’s really important to acknowledge the fact that Rishi Sunak says on one hand we’re spending huge amounts of money on the NHS but on the other hand we’re seeing the worst crisis in its history. And that’s what happens when you have a government that only does investment but doesn’t do reform.

“And the fact that he’s barely mentioning the NHS in this election tells you everything you need to know about the Tories and the NHS. They have failed spectacularly. It’s one of his own five pledges he made when he became Prime Minister, and he’s broken it.

Commenting on Diane Abbott, he continued: “I acknowledge and respect [Diane Abbott’s] achievement in politics and being that trailblazer. The second thing I would say, I’ve only been picking this up as I go along in terms of the reports. I’m not involved in the process, I don’t know what decision has been made and on what basis, at this stage. I’ve been out talking about how we cut NHS waiting lists.

“The decision is not mine and I am not going to disagree with the decision that’s been taken by people in the Labour Party who have responsibility for it. They will have looked into this, I haven’t, so I am not going to be a commentator. I’ll leave it to the decision-makers and stand by their decision.”


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