A Labour Government would implement a ‘fully-costed’ NHS workforce plan to help solve its annual crises, Sir Keir Starmer has said, after warning voters not to expect big increase in public spending.
The plan would aim to see thousands of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals join the NHS as a long-term solution to its recurring winter crises, the Labour leader claimed.
Delivering his first speech of the new year today (5 January), Sir Starmer said that annual national emergencies – such as the NHS winter crisis – have been treated with short-term ‘sticking plaster’ solutions under the Conservative Government.
He said these policies risk further damaging the NHS, and pledged to deliver a ‘fully-costed plan for the biggest NHS training programme’ in its history.
He said: ‘We’ll tackle the capacity crisis with more doctors, more nurses, more health visitors. And we’ll broker a fair pay agreement that will transform the pay and conditions for every carer in the country. Give care workers the respect and status they deserve and help them drive up standards in our care system. That’s a massive part of the NHS crisis.’
However, Sir Starmer said that a Labour Government would not be willing to get its ‘big Government chequebook’ out to spend its way out of the ‘mess’ left by the Tory Government.
When questioned how he would protect with NHS without greatly increasing public spending, he said the immediate priority is to tackle the NHS’ winter crisis.
‘We’ve argued the case for discharging patients more quickly, for more virtual wards,’ he said, adding that improving workforce retention is fundamental to changing how the NHS works.
Sir Starmer also warned that the current Government ‘have no strategy’ for bringing an end to the strike disputes, suggesting the Conservative party would either ‘reach an agreement that they could have reached before the strike started’ or ‘slug it out’ over the year.
‘It’s very important in relation to industrial action to understand quite how much people are struggling to make ends meet, and why they’re driven to this action, particularly the nurses who have been on strike nationally ever before,’ he said.
He also indicated he would repeal any anti-strike legislation passed under the current Government, suggesting they would ‘make a bad situation worse’.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is expected to announce this week details of a planned new law to curb strike action, with reports suggesting the legislation would make industrial action illegal in some sectors if minimum service levels are not met.