Starmer promises to cut Welsh NHS waits

Home Politics Starmer promises to cut Welsh NHS waits
Starmer promises to cut Welsh NHS waits

David Deans,Political reporter, BBC Wales News

Reuters Sir Keir StarmerReuters

Sir Keir Starmer would not be in direct charge of the Welsh NHS if he won the general election

As well as delivering economic stability and cutting NHS waiting times, Labour said it will crack down on antisocial behaviour, set up a publicly-owned clean power company and recruit new teachers in key subjects.

It said it will raise money to cut NHS waits by cutting down on tax avoidance.

The Conservatives said Labour’s record on waiting times is “abysmal”.

Plaid Cymru said Sir Keir was “behaving as if the last 25 years never happened” and said the six steps were a “cynical rehash” of Labour’s UK pledges.

The visit comes ahead of a vote of no confidence in First Minister Vaughan Gething, taking place in the Senedd next Wednesday.

Mr Gething accused the Tories of playing political games.

At the Labour event he made no direct reference to his own troubles, but said the Conservatives had a record of “treating politics as a game” rather than “a route to opportunity hope and security”.

Senedd Cymru Vaughan GethingSenedd Cymru

Ahead of a no confidence vote, First Minister Vaughan Gething accused the Conservatives of playing political games

Health and education services have been run from Cardiff – and not Westminster – since Labour set up the former National Assembly for Wales in 1999.

Labour has run the Welsh government, and been the largest party in the Senedd, since then.

Most of the Welsh government’s cash comes from the UK government – Cardiff ministers have complained of being underfunded by the Conservatives in London.

Over the last year the Welsh government has made cuts to other public services to help prop up the health service.

Sir Keir Starmer, who is visiting south Wales, said: “These first steps will make a real difference to people’s lives.

“If you’re waiting for NHS treatment, if your child is at school and you want higher standards, if your local area is plagued by anti-social behaviour, if you want cheaper energy bills for good, these first steps show what two Labour governments, working together, will do to help you.”

Waiting times for hospital treatment in Wales hit new record highs earlier in May.

The number of patient pathways – a statistic that refers to the total number of waits, rather than people waiting – rose by 6,400 to 768,899.

Amid major job losses at Tata in Port Talbot, Labour said Sir Keir will “reiterate the Labour Party’s commitment to invest in the UK’s steel industry”.

The six steps for Wales are:

  • deliver economic stability with tough spending rules
  • cut waiting times by targeting those waiting the longest and in the most need, paid for by cracking down on tax avoidance
  • launch a new border security command
  • set up Great British Energy, a publicly owned clean power energy company
  • more neighbourhood police paid to reduce anti-social behaviour and new penalties for offenders
  • recruit new teachers in key subjects, paid for by ending tax breaks for private schools.

Lines briefed to the media on Labour’s six pledges for Wales did not repeat a promise made in England for evening and weekend appointments.

Labour sources said it would be up to the Welsh government to decide how to spend the money it receives.

Education policy is also set in Cardiff – most recent data on recruitment to teacher training courses showed secondary teacher targets in 2021-22 had been missed for the eight successive year.

Recruiting teachers to train through the medium of Welsh and in subjects such as modern foreign languages and the sciences have faced the biggest challenges.

Welsh Conservative Senedd leader Andrew RT Davies said: “Keir Starmer has said that the Labour Welsh government is his ‘blueprint’ for what a Labour government would do, and their record on waiting lists is abysmal.

“The Labour Welsh government has presided over record NHS waiting lists while spending tens of millions of pounds on vanity projects and the 20mph war on motorists.

“Labour’s record in Wales is a stark warning to the rest of the UK of what a Labour government in Westminster would look like.”

Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts said: “Labour have been in charge of health and education in Wales for a quarter of a century, yet here they are pretending that they are the party of change.

“They talk of unleashing Wales’s potential but in reality, their record shows that they have no interest whatsoever in doing so.”

Calling the six steps a “cynical rehash of UK Labour’s pledges”, she said: “There is no mention in these pledges of giving Wales the billions it is owed from HS2 funding, of introducing a new fair funding model for Wales based on need not population, nor of the devolution of powers our economy sorely needs.”


By Gareth Lewis, BBC Wales political editor

Labour’s promise to cut NHS waiting times in Wales will raise some political blood pressure here.

The Welsh NHS is not controlled by the UK government – so Keir Starmer if he becomes prime minister – but by the Welsh government, which has been Labour-run since the beginning of devolution in 1999.

Just last week we saw another set of record waiting lists on their watch.

The Welsh Health Secretary Eluned Morgan has already drawn criticism this week from her political opponents for campaigning with a “modernise our NHS” placard – something they say she is directly responsible for.

Labour say they will work with the Welsh government but we do not know yet what this will mean in practice.

It is no surprise that the NHS is high up the campaign priorities, but some might view UK Labour’s promise as blurring the lines between who controls what.

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