Labour’s NHS policy is a total and utter mess, claims Rishi Sunak

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer criticised the Prime Minister for trying to blame the Opposition for Government ‘failures’.

Richard Wheeler
Wednesday 22 November 2023 12:51 GMT
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer questioned the Prime Minister on health policy (Jane Barlow/PA)
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer questioned the Prime Minister on health policy (Jane Barlow/PA)

Rishi Sunak claimed Labour’s policy on private sector involvement in the NHS is a “total and utter mess” as he clashed with Sir Keir Starmer in the Commons.

The Prime Minister took aim at differing statements from Labour frontbenchers on the health policy, including on whether or not the party wants to make use of the private sector.

Labour leader Sir Keir said Mr Sunak was trying to “blame the Opposition for his failures” in the NHS.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, Sir Keir suggested Mr Sunak had forgotten the NHS when unveiling five new pledges for the country.

Mr Sunak replied: “Just weeks after becoming Prime Minister, we injected record funding into the NHS and in social care. We also unveiled the first ever long-term workforce plan in the NHS’s 75-year history.”

He said the Government had halved inflation, had grown the economy and reduced debt, adding: “That’s a Conservative Government delivering for this country.”

Sir Keir countered: “The reason he ignored the NHS, not only in his new pledges but just now, is because 7.8 million people are currently on the waiting lists. That’s half a million more than when he pledged to bring them down nearly a year ago.

“And the Prime Minister just claimed that this is all about economic growth … if a labourer or care worker is forced to wait a year for an operation, how are they meant to help grow the economy?”

Mr Sunak defended his Government’s attempts to reduce waiting lists before criticising Labour’s record in Wales.

He later told the Commons: “One of the key things we’re doing to bring down waiting lists is expand the access of patient choice, it’s a very straightforward idea to make sure that patients can choose where they get treated and that way we’ll bring down waiting lists for mental health and other treatments far faster.

“Now, the Labour Party’s policy on this is a total and utter mess.

“First, he promised – in his words – to ban NHS use of the independent sector then he said he wants more use of the independent sector, his shadow health secretary (Wes Streeting) agreed with that but then the deputy leader (Angela Rayner) said she would end it.

“As ever, you simply don’t know what Labour stands for and you can’t trust a word they say.”

Sir Keir replied: “As ever, no responsibility for the shocking state of the NHS.”

The Labour leader went on to raise the case of an NHS nurse and her 14-year-old son who is unwell, with Mr Sunak saying the Government is doing “absolutely everything we can” to put money in the NHS to bring down the waiting list.

Mr Sunak added it was “incredibly galling” to hear criticism from Sir Keir when he “does not have the strength to condemn” strikes or back legislation to guarantee minimum service levels.

Sir Keir replied: “This is on his watch, it’s his responsibility – 13 years in and all he’s got to offer is trying to blame the Opposition for his failures.”

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