Sir Keir Starmer’s NHS ambitions are laudable – but how will he pay for them? | UK News
Sir Keir Starmer has shown a good understanding of the NHS’s biggest problems.
But after a winter of headline-making news, these failings have been widely publicised and almost everyone in the country will know what is going wrong.
No surprise then that he has highlighted A&E waiting times, ambulance delays, cancer diagnoses and GP access as priorities for his ambitious plans to reform the NHS in England.
These plans have been almost universally welcomed by health policy analysts.
But they do all ask the same question: Where is the money going to come from?
The Labour leader was asked the same question at the event where he unveiled his plans.
He replied by saying money alone will not fix the NHS’s problems. He is right. But it would help. Enormously.
The NHS has suffered year after year of underfunding.
If Labour was to win the next election it would probably have to start by addressing the crumbling NHS estate with a repair bill of around £10 billion and fill the thousands of NHS staff vacancies that currently exist.
Labour says it will deliver its NHS budget nearer to the election, but Sir Keir did say that recruitment and retention in primary care would be funded by scrapping the non-dom tax status.
Only after tackling issues like the workforce crisis can it really begin to remodel the NHS to make it fit Sir Keir Starmer’s vision of a health service for the 21st century.
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His idea of putting prevention first and improved access to community based health hubs is not new. It is happening to some extent already.
The government’s winter plan to ease the pressure on overcrowded hospitals was designed to stop people presenting at hospital.
Under Labour, the focus will shift to embrace health technology. This is one of the sector’s fastest growing areas.
Virtual wards really came into their own during the pandemic and their benefits are recognised by many NHS trusts already.
To make the wholesale shift to a fully digital NHS will also require significant investment.
Sir Keir Starmer’s ambition for the NHS is laudable. But to see how it can be achieved, more detail in how his vision will be funded is needed.