THE NHS must reform or suffer a “long and painful death”, shadow health secretary Wes Streeting has said.
It is a “service not a shrine” and will not be fixed by chucking cash at it, he said last night.
Labour shadow health minister Wes Streeting[/caption]
In an explosive interview with The Sun on Sunday, Mr Streeting said: “It is not my job to go around pretending the NHS is the best in the world or the envy of the world to make us all feel cheerful.
“It is my job to be honest with the public and with the system — that the NHS is falling well short of where we need it to be — and to give people some hope that there is a party able to fix it.”
He added: “If the NHS doesn’t reform, it will die. It is not going to collapse overnight.
“It will be a long, slow, painful death that sees the public begin to give up on the idea the NHS will be there for them when they need it and perhaps even be attracted to the siren calls from some in the Conservative Party that the NHS should become a paid-for service.
“I don’t accept the inevitability of either of those two things.”
His tough words will be echoed by Sir Keir Starmer tomorrow, when he uses a major speech to declare: “The NHS is not sustainable unless we make serious, deep, long-term changes.”
Mr Streeting also said:
- HOSPITALS are “100 per cent” too reliant on foreign doctors and nurses and we must train up more Brits;
- IMMIGRATION is too high and putting pressure on doctors, schools and housing;
- GPs are doling out sick notes “willy-nilly” and more must be done to help the record 2.5million long-term ill Brits back into work;
- JUNIOR doctors threatening to coordinate strikes with nurses would be guilty of a “dangerous escalation” that would “rightly turn” people against them.
For those lucky enough to have one, getting an appointment can seem harder than winning the lottery.
Taking a sip from his tea at his favourite cafe — Cafe 104 — near his home in Ilford, East London, he is clear the NHS will not be fixed by just pouring more cash into it.
He said: “It is investment and reform that delivers results. The tragedy of the NHS today is we spend an awful lot of money on very poor outcomes.”
Money is wasted on a bloated bureaucracy and a creaking IT system which too often sees scans lost, results delayed and patients’ time wasted, he said.
Tomorrow, Mr Streeting will join Sir Keir in launching their health “mission” ahead of the next election.
They will promise to hit cancer targets, train more Brits as doctors and use private hospitals to clear backlogs.
For Mr Streeting, 40, the mission is personal. He was diagnosed and treated for kidney cancer in 2021.
He praised the care of doctors and nurses, but saw first-hand how the NHS’s outdated systems can let patients down.
Invited into hospital for a CT scan, he realised halfway through he had been sent for an ultrasound — the wrong scan.
He has now been given the all-clear, but says: “In my case, that didn’t have an impact on my cancer outcomes. But when every day counts, as it so often does in later stage cancer diagnoses, that was time I might not have been able to afford.”
Getting an appointment can seem harder than winning the lottery[/caption]
Wes Streting said: ‘Hospitals are 100% too reliant on foreign doctors and nurses’[/caption]
Wes Streting said: ‘The pressure on GPs is so high, sick notes are dished out willy-nilly’[/caption]
Wes Streting said: ‘If strikers lose sight of patient safety I think the public will turn’[/caption]
The NHS has been hit by a series of crippling strikes in recent months and there is no end in sight.
Mr Streeting is careful to steer clear of directly criticising nurses on picket lines.
But he came out swinging against junior doctors agitating for coordinated strikes with nurses to inflict maximum disruption.
He told doctors: “Don’t lose sight of patient safety and the public will still be with you.
However, he added: “But the moment they lose sight of patient safety I think the public will rightly turn.”
He also said hospitals are too reliant on foreign medics and attacked the government for “turning away thousands of straight A students” from studying medicine at university with an “unfair” cap on places.
He has promised to double medical school places to 15,000 a year.
Mr Streeting also waded into the row on immigration.
He said: “I think anyone looking at the levels of net migration now would conclude that it is at a level the country will not be able to cope with.”
He promised Labour will bring it down if they win power.
Mr Streeting was speaking days after alarming figures that show a record 2.5million Brits are off work sick.
He said: “It has become so overwhelming, and the pressure on general practice so high, sick notes are dished out willy-nilly.”
More must be done to help those on long-term sick back into jobs they can do, he added.
Some politicians have called for the sugar tax on fizzy drinks to be extended to other sugary treats like cakes, biscuits and even orange juice.
But Mr Streeting said he does not want to clobber cash-strapped families with more “sin taxes”.
However, he slammed “irresponsible” vaping firms for getting kids hooked on smoking by branding their puffers like colourful sweets, telling them: “We are going to come down on you like a ton of bricks.”
A huge fan of the monarchy, Mr Streeting managed to bag a coveted ticket to King Charles’ Coronation.
He says: “It was amazing. Despite the things I’ve achieved in my life, I think going to the Coronation is probably my dad’s proudest moment.”
Does Mr Streeting hanker after the Labour crown one day? He laughs off the suggestion — but does not deny it.
Instead, he tactfully says: “I just feel like if the one job I ever get to do in politics is to be the health secretary to turn the NHS around from its worst crisis in history, and make it fit for the future, I will consider that a career well spent.”
Cancer key to success
SHADOW Health Secretary Wes Streeting says Labour will tackle cancer waits.
His vow came as data reveals the NHS is missing a crucial diagnosis target.
All patients with suspected cancer are meant to see a consultant within 14 days of being urgently referred by their GP.
But House of Commons library stats reveal that this target was missed in over half a million cases last year.
Some 593,090 patients waited longer than 14 days in 2022/23.
This was up from 19,713 cases in 2010, the figures show.
Mr Streeting said: “It is absolutely essential. If cancer is failing, we know the NHS is failing.”
The Department for Health says officials are working to clear the cancer backlog.
Wes Streeting says the NHS cant keep asking for more cash without reform[/caption]