13 years of Conservative mismanagement have left the NHS without the doctors and nurses it needs, and patients are paying the price. In an emergency, patients can no longer be sure that the NHS will be there for them when they need it. Heart attack and stroke victims are waiting a terrifying hour and a half on average for an ambulance. 24 hours in A&E is no longer just a TV programme, but the grim reality for too many. The longer the Conservatives are in power, the longer patients will wait. Seven million people are waiting months and even years for treatment, held back from working and living their lives to the full. Find out where you are in the queue for the NHS here.
Now they’ve broken the NHS, the Conservatives are proposing to start charging patients to see a doctor or visit A&E. When I went through treatment for kidney cancer, the one thing I never had to worry about was the bill. An NHS free at the point of use has been its central equitable principle for 75 years, and so it must remain.
A Labour government will pull every available lever to get patients treated sooner. But sticking plasters aren’t enough. We have to grasp the root cause of the crisis in the NHS. The immediate crisis is a staffing crisis, which is why the next Labour government will train 7,500 more doctors and 10,000 more nurses and midwives every year to treat patients on time again. We will pay for our plan by abolishing the non-dom tax status, because patients need doctors and nurses more than the wealthiest need a tax break.
However, simply pouring more resources in won’t be enough. Nye Bevan, the founder of the NHS, said: “The service must always be changing, growing, improving.” As well as providing the investment in staff, Labour will reform the NHS to make it fit for the future, so it delivers better care for patients and better value for the taxpayer.
The front door to the NHS is broken, with millions unable to get a GP appointment when they need one. Keir Starmer and I are exploring plans to allow patients to self-refer directly for tests and to physiotherapists. Patients who are told by an optician they need to see an eye specialist shouldn’t have to go back to a GP just to get a referral – that is a waste of everyone’s time.
We will also tackle the dying GP partnership model. New GPs are rejecting the burdens of running their own practice, so practices are closing around the country as partners retire, leaving patients without a doctor. This isn’t sustainable. We make no apology for thinking boldly about how to revive primary care so that every patient can see a doctor when they need to.
Primary care reform is just part of our plan to shift the focus of healthcare out of the hospital and into the community, delivering earlier diagnosis and more successful treatment. Labour wants to see more people cared for in the comfort of their own homes, so we have pledged to double the number of district nurses qualifying each year. Every child deserves a healthy start to life, so we will train an extra 5,000 health visitors to provide one.
Greater investment in staff must also mean better standards for patients. Our reforms will mean that patients can easily book appointments to see the doctor they want, in the manner they choose – whether it’s face to face, over the phone or online.
Tomorrow is the Labour Party’s national campaign day for the NHS. Please get out, knock on doors and take our message to the voters we need to persuade at the next election: only Labour – the party that founded the NHS 75 years ago – can be trusted to deliver the investment and reform needed to make it fit for the future.
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