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Medics criticise Labour’s plan to use voluntary overtime to clear NHS waiting lists

Doubts have been raised over Labour’s plan to pay doctors and nurses more to work overtime in an attempt to bring down NHS waiting lists.

Medics warned that the plan, which will lead to an extra £1.1bn in funding being pumped into the health system, is unlikely to work as it relies on an already overstretched workforce.

Sir Keir Starmer announced the plans on Sunday, which he said would be funded by scrapping the non-domiciled tax status, and will enable the NHS to provide an extra two million operations, scans, and appointments in the first year.

The proposals rely on doctors and nurses volunteering for working more night shifts and weekends, but the Labour leader said it would help to ease their own workloads despite the payments being lower than in the private sector.

Sir Keir told the BBC that doctors “will probably get more (money) in the private sector” but he believed they would do overtime for the NHS “because they want to bring down the waiting list as well”.

NHS staff “are up for this because they know that bringing down the waiting list will reduce the pressure on them in the long run”, he said.

He told the Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg programme: “They want to do this just as much as we do and it is desperately needed.

“We need growth in our economy, we need to raise living standards across the country. We will never do that with the mess that this Government has made of the NHS.”

But one consultant doctor in Newcastle told i that there would be “little appetite for staff to carry out more weekend work than we already do”.

It came as the British Medical Association said that paying health workers for more overtime was not a substitute for paying them a proper wage.

BMA council chairman Professor Philip Banfield said the “vast majority of doctors already take on extra work”.

“For far too long, it has been our goodwill keeping the health service afloat,” he added. “While this move may very well incentivise further overtime, it is only once doctors receive restoration of lost relative value will we be in a position to look at the impact that this extra overtime funding may have on waiting lists.”

Royal College of Nursing chief nurse Professor Nicola Ranger said: “Nursing staff work so much overtime that is never paid – staying behind an hour or two after 12-hour shifts to keep patients safe – so a change in this culture is needed.”

But ultimately, she said, hundreds of thousands more nursing staff could be needed.

Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said: “The NHS needs all the help it can get. This is fine as a stop-gap measure, but this is all it must be.

“Health workers are already up against it and there are only so many hours in a day. But a voluntary scheme, where staff are paid fairly, that avoids the use of expensive agencies, makes sense in the short-term.”

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