The party’s new shadow Health Secretary despairs at the record backlog of 5.5million patients unable to get treatment
Image: Wes Streeting)
Wes Streeting’s big ambition is to bring hospital waiting lists down from 18 months to no more than 18 weeks as the last Labour government did.
The party’s new shadow Health Secretary despairs at the record backlog of 5.5million patients unable to get treatment.
And the other eight million “missing” patients who should have been referred but were not who could be harbouring life-threatening conditions such as undiagnosed cancer.
Mr Streeting said: “If you need a knee op or a hip replacement it has a big impact on your quality of life.
“But when it comes to treatment for cancer time is of the essence.”
He should know. The MP lost a kidney to cancer earlier this year but thanks to the speed and skill of NHS surgeons he is now fighting fit.
He said: “I received outstanding care from the moment I arrived at A&E with chronic pain. The staff on the ward were wonderful, caring people but there just weren’t enough of them.
“It’s only when you have an experience like that you really appreciate how fantastic the NHS is.
“As soon as I had my cancer diagnosis everything sped up. This incredible machine kicked into full gear.
“But before that there was a lot of chasing around and waiting. And this means there will be a lot of undiagnosed cancer.”
And he knows the backlog will not be cleared before the next election so he could be the one dealing with it.
Even before the pandemic 4.5million patients were on waiting lists and there were 100,000 NHS vacancies.
He said the answer was better pay and conditions for the workforce while keeping a check on the six figure salaries of managers and management consultants.
He added: “The biggest priority is to recruit, train and retain staff for the long term.
“NHS workers who came to see me were in tears because they were on poverty pay and we will lose them if we don’t pay them properly
“But it’s not simply about spending more money. You need investment but also reform to get value for every penny and deliver results for patients.”
He said: “Boris Johnson now counts paint jobs as a brand new hospital. We need to know more about this phantom hospital building programme.”
We were due to meet at London’s Whipps Cross Hospital which serves Mr Streeting’s Ilford North constituency but that was cancelled after a sudden power cut.
Mr Streeting said: “It was flooded earlier this year, 100 patients had to be evacuated, and the buildings are crumbling. It’s a hospital which needs complete refurbishment.
“People all over the country are being treated in dilapidated hospitals no longer fit for purpose.”
And he wants to see face-to-face consultations with GPs for those who want it to make a comeback.
He said: “Technology frees up time in the system. But face-to-face appointments should always be there for those who need and want it.
“There aren’t many advantages to having had both cancer and Covid this year but one of them is I’ve been able to do a lot of NHS mystery shopping.
“I’ve had telephone and video consultations. And I’ve been physically poked and prodded in places I wouldn’t want to share with readers.
“For a busy working guy like me speaking on the phone suits rather than hanging around the surgery. But patient choice means face-to-face consultations should always be there for those who want them.”
Mr Streeting slammed Boris Johnson for hiking national insurance and council tax and stripping working people of homes worth £100,000 to pay for social care but with nothing to show for it.
Mr Streeting said: “He promised he had a plan for social care but what he produced last week shows there is no plan, let alone one to deliver real reform.
“The Conservatives are throwing money away without delivering results. Under the Tories we’re paying more but getting less.”
The new Omicron Covid variant should have come as no surprise but Boris Johnson consistently under prepares and under delivers.
Mr Streeting added: “The air of mild shambles around the PM reflects the way he runs his Government and that has serious consequences.”
He said mandatory masks in enclosed spaces should never have been abandoned, adding: “They’re a pain in the backside. But they are a minor inconvenience compared to the consequences for lives and livelihoods.”
And he urged community pharmacies, pop up clinics and volunteers to be brought in to boose the booster programme.
Mr Streeting said: “It’s about bloody time not to be complacent about the booster rollout. They’re picking it up now and I’m not going to knock the Government for that.””
Mr Streeting said hospitality venues such as pubs, restaurants and nightclubs should have the right to decide whether customers needed Covid passes to prove vaccine status.
But he is against compulsory jabs to be introduced in Austria and possibly Germany preferring persuasion.
And he has no plans to avoid Christmas parties.
He said: “I have been for Christmas drinks. I will be going to Christmas drinks. I’m also making plans for Christmas with my family.
“I’m comfortable with that but people must make their own common sense judgements.”
Wes Streeting’s promotion to the shadow Cabinet at 38 has prompted speculation that he could be a future leader of the Labour Party.
“No leadership ambitions,” he said emphatically. “The only ambition I’ve got is to get Keir Starmer into No10.”