Starmer to set out NHS reform plan with focus on “prevention as much as cure”

Keir Starmer is set to outline his plan for NHS “renewal and reform” aiming to create a health system that is “as much about prevention as cure” as part of his “contract with the British people”.

Addressing the Fabian Society’s new year conference on Saturday, the Labour leader is expected to declare that only his party can make the changes needed to ensure the health service thrives, such as improving resilience.

Labour in government will look to ensure the UK health system is “a bit less about the system and a lot more about the patient” in a bid to provide people with the “security, prosperity and respect they deserve”, he will say.

“An older society needs a different health system. One that is as much about prevention as it is about cure. That is a bit less about the community hospital and a bit more about the community,” Starmer will tell the conference.

“It is obvious that the NHS needs more money. But that is not all it needs,” he is expected to add. “When we were in government, we started to reform the NHS, so that it was pointed more towards the patient. So that it answered the needs of the time.

“That reform process has stalled because this government doesn’t care if the NHS falls behind. Boris Johnson is too preoccupied defending his rule breaking. And, as day follows night, when it comes to the National Health Service, you can never trust the Tories.”

Starmer will promise that Labour would “treat mental health as seriously as physical health”, reiterating his policies unveiled at conference to “guarantee mental health support in less than a month” and never allow spending on mental health to fall.

“We’ll recruit more than 8,500 mental health professionals to support a million more people every year. Every school will have specialist support. Every community will have an open access mental health hub for young people.”

The Labour leader will also dismiss Tory attempts to “wash their hands of their record” on the NHS, making the case that the ruling party should take responsibility for the condition of the health service entering the pandemic.

“Rather than concentrating on getting through the pandemic and bringing down waiting lists, this self-indulgent Tory Party is instead having a fight about a leader who they should have known from the start is not fit for office.

“We are witnessing the broken spectacle of a Prime Minister mired in deceit and deception, unable to lead. When we left office 12 years ago, the Conservatives inherited a strong NHS. Waiting times were the shortest on record,” he will say. “Today, NHS waiting lists are the highest since records began.”

Starmer will add: “And it is not good enough to blame all this on Covid. This mess has been much longer in the making. And this government has to bear the responsibility… Why have we got to this point, where the NHS itself is in a critical condition?”

The opposition leader has increasingly added personal elements to his speeches, and his Fabian Society speech will do the same, referring to his childhood experiences of visiting his mother in hospital while she was ill with Still’s disease.

“The NHS cannot look after us if we do not look after it. This is a political crusade for us,” he will say, “but this is also a personal crusade for me.” He is expected to add: “I have never forgotten the care my mum received… the respect with which she was treated.

“I want that level of care for everyone. We all need the security of knowing that the NHS is there for us when we need it. That is what my contract will offer.”

Starmer first revealed his “contract with the British people”, based on the three principles of “security”, “prosperity” and “respect”, in a speech in Birmingham last week, when he also stressed his patriotism.

“This will be a solemn agreement about what this country needs and how a good government should conduct itself,” he said, pledging to run a government that honours the Nolan principles on decency and standards in public life.

The Labour leader will be joined by Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves, Labour chair Anneliese Dodds, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, plus frontbenchers Wes Streeting, David Lammy, Jonathan Ashworth and Jonathan Reynolds at the conference on Saturday.

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