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Left-wing principles should not trump access to care- Labour’s shadow health secretary

08 Apr 2024 3 minute read
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer, with shadow health secretary Wes Streeting (left). Photo Peter Byrne/PA Wire

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”.

He said: “The NHS is a service, not a shrine. It is judged by how well it serves the public, not how heavy a price we’re paying for failure.

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He added that Labour would “bring our analogue service into the digital age”, reducing the amount of time “wasted by outdated equipment” while also “cutting the red tape that ties up GPs’ time”.

Increased funding

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.”

Cross-party cooperation

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.”

In 2010, the Conservatives under David Cameron criticised Labour’s proposals for funding social care as a “death tax” while in 2017 Labour under Jeremy Corbyn attacked Tory plans as a “dementia tax”.

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.”


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hdavies15
hdavies15
1 month ago

Social care is already a service which is predominantly delivered by private providers, some commissioned by local authorities and the rest funded out of family funds. Not ideal but has greater “reach” than just sitting back and waiting for the public sector to give 100% coverage even if they charged for it. I used to be dead opposed to “private medicine” as I saw it as a Tory ideal that created a 2 tier system. Over recent years my perspective has changed mainly because of the greedy selfish behaviours of consultants and senior practitioners who have contrived by their own… Read more »

Linda Jones
Linda Jones
1 month ago
Reply to  hdavies15

I agree, long waiting lists and private health services work in the interests of consultants. Its a money grab by those who should be working to help us all as stated in their NHS contracts In my opinion the profiteering motive should have no place in the health service.

Mawkernewek
Mawkernewek
1 month ago

I’m not convinced Wesley Streeting, or Keir Starmer actually have any left-wing principles left to sell out on.

Peter Cuthbert
Peter Cuthbert
1 month ago
Reply to  Mawkernewek

I would tend to agree with you on that. However, in using private providers the NHS should be setting the price it is willing to pay so that the work is not hugely profitable. With that set up any unwillingness of the private providers to do the work can be roundly and widely condemned as greed, which it is.

Steve Woods
Steve Woods
1 month ago
Reply to  Mawkernewek

With shadow cabinet members openly expressing admiration for the abysmal Margaret Thatcher, I question whether they had any left-wing principles to begin with.

Linda Jones
Linda Jones
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Woods

Agree the Labour Party has been highjacked by right wingers. No representation for working people

Neil Anderson
Neil Anderson
1 month ago

How could the accelerated privatisation of the NHS under Labour possibly benefit the people of Cymru? It won’t.

Time to vote tactically against Labour and end one-party rule in Cymru.

Ernie The Smallholder
Ernie The Smallholder
1 month ago
Reply to  Neil Anderson

Yes, Tactically vote for Plaid Cymru.
Get a Free, Democratic and Effective Wales.

Richard Davies
Richard Davies
1 month ago

I have never and will never go private when it comes to health. If something goes wrong you have a greater chance of dying when you go private!

wes streeting (and many other mps on all sides) have links, shares etc. with many private health providers and that is why they push private instead of funding the NHS adequately!

People need to watch the film “The Dirty War on the NHS” (still available on the website of the late John Pilger, one of the best investigative journalists that ever lived)

https://johnpilger.com/videos/the-dirty-war-on-the-nhs

Or watch on Youtube;

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=fK3lsWHrQJY

Last edited 1 month ago by Richard Davies
Richard Davies
Richard Davies
1 month ago
Reply to  Richard Davies

Private hospitals rarely have intensive care units. This is a link to news item “Death of NHS-funded private patient.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-68717086

Today’s panorama programme on BBC one this evening (8/4/2024) is about risk with going private.

Annibendod
Annibendod
1 month ago

Like I’ve said often enough … They are a corporate, centrist, neoliberal and Unionist (aka Imperialist) organisation. They’re not going to be radical. They are there to take their turn on the throne and they will not upset the apple cart.

Plaid polling in 2nd place in Llanelli. Vote Plaid and get this shower of charlatans out.

Richard E
Richard E
1 month ago

Access to and Delivery by a new “ Iechyd Cymru “ is needed. / forget what’s happening the other side of Offas’ Dyke and focus on outcomes, accessibility and delivery plus of course resources.

Rhddwen y Sais
Rhddwen y Sais
1 month ago
Reply to  Richard E

But hospitals for large swathes of Cymru are the other side of the clawdd.

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