Labour has pledged to “ramp up” weekend hospital appointments as it seeks to pile pressure on Rishi Sunak over lengthy NHS waiting lists heading into Christmas.
Sir Keir Starmer has called on the Prime Minister to fund more overtime for doctors and nurses in a bid to clear the appointments backlog, offering the party’s promise to end the non-dom tax status as a way to fund it.
Mr Sunak is facing an uphill battle to meet his pledge to cut waiting lists by the end of the year.
NHS England data published last week showed a slight drop in the overall NHS waiting list for treatment, to 7.71 million treatments waiting to be carried out at the end of October, relating to 6.44 million patients.
This is down from the record 7.77 million treatments and 6.50 million patients at the end of September.
Mr Sunak and other ministers have insisted that progress had been made before the impact of strike action.
“Labour has a fully-funded, NHS-backed plan to ramp up weekend appointments, clear the backlog and help give people their lives back. There is one reason it’s not happening, and that’s a political choice by the Prime Minister to keep a tax loophole for the wealthiest,” Sir Keir Starmer said.
“Patients will rightfully be wondering why.”
Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting will join his party leader in a visit to a hospital trust in Yorkshire on Monday, where weekend clinics have been introduced.
Labour said that more than half of hospitals close operating theatres at weekends, causing a four-fold drop in procedures compared to weekdays.
“While the Prime Minister schemes in Westminster, chasing down gimmicks to save his political skin, waiting lists are growing and the NHS heads into yet another winter crisis,” Sir Keir said.
“Some hospitals are already blazing the trail with weekend working, but need a government that backs them to unleash the full potential of our health service. The Prime Minister should put his pride and politics aside, change the rules protecting the wealthiest and prioritise patients over non-doms.”
A Conservative Party spokesman said: “Labour claim five different ideas can be ‘funded’ from scrapping one tax status – but there’s a limit to how many times even Rachel Reeves can copy and paste the same policy.
“Labour’s sums simply do not add up, and the shadow health secretary has already admitted it.”
Published: by Radio NewsHub