Streeting: Patients “paying the price” for government “failure” to train NHS staff

Katie Neame

Wes Streeting has argued that patients are “paying the price” for the government’s “failure” to train enough NHS staff after analysis revealed that approximately five million patients may have been unable to book a GP appointment in October.

Labour is expected to table a motion proposing the abolition of the non-dom tax status – which allows individuals to avoid paying UK income tax – and has said it will use the funds raised to train a “new generation” of NHS staff.

“Patients are finding it impossible to get a GP appointment when they need one. I’m really worried that among those millions of patients unable to get an appointment, there could be serious conditions going undiagnosed until it’s too late,” the Shadow Health Secretary said.

“12 years of Conservative failure to train the staff our NHS needs has left it with thousands fewer GPs, and patients are paying the price. Meanwhile, they are protecting the non-dom tax status, allowing people who live in Britain to pay their taxes overseas. We need doctors and nurses, not non-doms.

“The next Labour government will train a new generation of doctors and nurses, paid for by abolishing non-doms. Patients need doctors’ appointments more than the wealthiest need a tax break.”

According to Labour Party analysis of the 2022 GP patient survey and the latest GP appointments data, as many as 5.2 million patients may have been unable to book an appointment in October.

The party has claimed that, in 2022, 13.8% of patients did not get a GP appointment the last time they tried to book one (excluding those patients who were helped by the practice in other ways) – up from 8.1% in 2021.

Streeting announced at Labour conference earlier this year that the party will deliver a ten-year plan for change and modernisation in the NHS, including a significant boost in the healthcare workforce, to make the health service “fit for the future”.

Labour’s proposals include doubling the number of medical school places in order to train 15,000 new doctors a year, training 10,000 additional nurses and midwives each year, doubling the number of district nurses qualifying every year and creating 5,000 new health visitors.

Labour noted that the plan was “endorsed” by Jeremy Hunt back in September before he became Chancellor. The then chair of the Commons health and social care committee urged Liz Truss’s government to adopt Labour’s proposals in a newsletter on behalf of the Patient Safety Watch charity, which he founded.

Hunt wrote: “The medical school place increase was something the select committee called for in its report on workforce and so is something I very much hope the government also adopts on the basis that smart governments always nick the best ideas of their opponents.”

NHS England figures released last month showed that 7.1 million people in England were waiting to start treatment at the end of September, the highest total since records began. Streeting declared at the time that NHS staff are “slogging their guts out” but there “simply aren’t enough of them”.

The number of vacancies in the NHS hit a record high of more than 130,000 earlier this year. Commenting at the time, NHS Providers interim chief executive Saffron Cordery said the figures were “staggering” and “further proof that the NHS simply doesn’t have enough staff to deliver everything being asked of it”.

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