A Labor government would view raising junior doctors’ pay as ‘a journey, not an event’, shadow health secretary Wes Streeting has said in latest warning about the need for caution on spending if the party comes to power.
Streeting also said that while he wanted maximum wait times for operations to fall to 18 weeks by the end of a first term in office, he was “not going to create a hostage of fortune” making specific commitments on NHS waiting lists.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Streeting reiterated Labour’s position that if elected it would not be able to immediately match the 35% pay rise demanded by the British Medical Association for young doctors in England.
Saying he would be “depressed and furious” if the dispute was not over before the general election, Streeting said: “I think we need to view the road back to fair pay as a journey and not an event “. This is due, he added, to the fact that “public finances are in a state of total disorder”.
Outlining previously unveiled Labor plans to try to reduce the NHS appointment backlog with measures including funding for weekend appointments, Streeting only said there would be considerably longer waiting lists. short under the Labor government.
He added: “I hope that by the end of the first term of a Labor government we will have seen a serious reduction in NHS waiting lists. By the end of the first term of a Labor Government, I would like to see the maximum waiting times for operations reduced to 18 weeks. This is our commitment.
“In terms of the total number of waiting lists, we will move as quickly and as far as possible to reduce these waiting lists overall – but we want to make sure that we reduce waiting times to 18 weeks from here the end of the month. end of the first term of a Labor government.
Reducing waiting lists in England was one of the five main promises made by Rishi Sunak in January, but progress has been difficult.
Data released last week by NHS England showed the waiting list for treatment had fallen slightly, to 7.7 million treatments for 6.4 million patients at the end of October, compared to 7.8 million treatments and 6.5 million patients at the end of September.
Streeting was due to join Labor leader Keir Starmer on Monday on a visit to a hospital in Yorkshire, where weekend clinics have been introduced.