Keir Starmer: Labour leader announces £1.5bn plan to tackle NHS wait times

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The £1.5bn waiting list plan will be paid for by ending non-dom tax status - to create more revenue

A Labour government would plan to tackle NHS waiting lists by creating 2.2 million hospital appointments a year, Sir Keir Starmer announced. 

He said, on the eve of the party's conference in Liverpool, that £1.1bn per year would be spent to ensure 40,000 out-of-hours appointments each week - and this will be paid for by savings from ending the non-dom tax status, he said.

However, announcing his £1.5bn plan to tackle wait times, he urged the party not to become “giddy” at the prospect of power, ahead of the general election.

Labour Party leader Sir Kier StarmerLabour Party leader Sir Kier Starmer
Labour Party leader Sir Kier Starmer

Sir Keir said, at what could have been the final Labour conference before the election expected next year, the party would make the “positive case for change” with a pitch to swing voters that would “weld together” competence and the offer of fresh hope after 13 years of Tory rule.

The party’s members gather in Liverpool enjoying consistent double-digit poll leads over the Tories and buoyed by the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election triumph over the SNP, but Sir Keir warned against complacency.

“It is not going to be giddy, it is not going to be ‘job done’,” Sir Keir told the Observer.

“So you won’t get razzmatazz. You won’t see mistakes that have been made in the past by opposition parties.”

Speaking to the Sunday Mirror, he said that under Labour's NHS waiting list plan - which the party claims would add 40,000 extra appointments a week - staff would be offered overtime to work evening and weekend shifts for procedures to be carried out.

Neighbouring hospitals would also be encouraged to pool staff and use shared waiting lists. Meaning that patients would be given the option to travel to nearby hospitals on an evening or weekend, rather than wait longer.

Abolishing the regime is how the party plans to fund the largest ever workforce expansion in the NHS.

“I think everybody knows someone who’s on the NHS waiting list. And I’m certainly not immune from that. This is a period of high anxiety for individuals – huge personal discomfort in many cases,” he said.

In an eve-of-conference reception for London Labour members, Sir Keir said: “I say to Rishi Sunak: if he wants change, bring it on.”

He told the crowd: “I don’t agree with Rishi Sunak on very much, but when he stood up last week and said we’ve had years of failure and we need a change, I thought he was spot on. We need change. He can’t be that change, he’s been the nodding dog as chancellor nodding through all the decisions he now says were so terrible they’ve got to change them.”

In other developments:

  • Labour will issue a new membership card, with a commitment to “putting the country first” in what aides said was a sign that Sir Keir was leading a “proudly patriotic party”.
  • Leading barrister and former wife of ex prime minister Boris Johnson, Marina Wheeler KC, to be appointed the party’s “whistleblowing tsar” to advise on reforms to protect women who expose people who bully and sexually harass staff, the Independent reported.
  • Labour’s Small Business Sunday event will see company chiefs given the chance to mix with shadow ministers in the latest sign of the party’s attempts to build bridges with the business community.
  • Labour is promising to set up specialist further education colleges to tackle local skills shortages.
  • An extra 700,000 urgent dentist appointments and supervised toothbrushing in schools across England would be introduced 

Sir Keir has appeared on the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg in the traditional conference curtain-raiser.

His deputy leader Angela Rayner will open proceedings on the conference main stage and has said Labour is “certainly not taking anything for granted” despite the “seismic” win in the Rutherglen contest.

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves will take to the main stage on Monday to detail Labour’s plans for economic growth, before Sir Keir’s keynote address on Tuesday.

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