Starmer criticised over NHS commitments as he unveils Health Mission


“We will not fix this crisis without a major, real-terms investment boost, both to tackle the ongoing recruitment crisis, and to adapt to an ageing society.”

Kate Dove, Momentum Co-Chair

By Labour Hub

Labour activists and campaigners hit out at Keir Starmer today (May 22nd) over his refusal to back renationalisation of, and greater funding for, the NHS. The Labour leader unveiled his ‘health mission’, setting the direction for the Party’s plans for government.

Among those demanding an alternative path to Starmer’s mission was the Chair of Labour’s own health affiliate, the Socialist Health Association (SHA), Mark Ladbrooke, who said: “The corporate capture on NHS commissioning structures must be undone. Every penny diverted to private healthcare companies is less for urgently needed healthcare to reduce waiting lists. We need a properly-paid and equipped NHS workforce; we need to cancel the huge student debts that many are suffering.”

Starmer, who was elected Labour leader on a pledge to end NHS outsourcing, unveiled a series of priorities for ‘reform’ of the NHS, none of which contained commitments to undo NHS privatisation or enact real-terms investment boosts. Instead, the Labour Leader is pinning his hopes for a revival of the beleaguered health service on a series of technocratic reforms, including an emphasis on prevention. The left-wing Labour campaign group Momentum said Starmer’s proposals “ignore the elephants in the room and risk compounding the problem” in the NHS.

Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting – who has accepted substantial donations from figures linked to the private healthcare sector – has repeatedly emphasised his desire to increase private sector use of the NHS, a policy shared by the Conservatives. Streeting has also said he won’t “pour resources in” to the NHS, saying he wants reform “to do the heavy lifting”. His comments were criticised by the SHA, the Party’s voice on health matters.

The Labour Leader’s position contradicts the agreed policy platform of his own party. At the Party’s Annual Conference last year, the SHA moved a motion which stated that Labour would adopt “a position of outright opposition to and commit to vote against any and all forms of privatisation of the NHS” and “commit to returning all privatised portions of the NHS to public control upon forming a Government.” It was passed unanimously by every single union and local party delegate.

Ahead of the conclusion of Labour’s National Policy Forum and Conference 2023, Momentum is campaigning for Labour to end NHS privatisation, commit to real-terms pay rises for NHS workers and reverse privatisation of the health service. See here and below Momentum’s 2023 template Conference motion, which the group is urging Constituency Labour Parties to pass.

Kate Dove, Momentum Co-Chair, said: “Our NHS is on its knees as a result of more than a decade of Tory austerity and under-investment, resulting in record, deadly waiting times and staff leaving in droves. We will not fix this crisis without a major, real-terms investment boost, both to tackle the ongoing recruitment crisis, and to adapt to an ageing society.

“As Keir Starmer once suggested, we should also end NHS outsourcing, while putting an end to the NHS privatisation which has driven this crisis, instead of Wes Streeting’s calls for more private sector use of the NHS. Mission-driven requirement requires long-term solutions, not sticking plasters and toothless promises. It’s time for the Labour Leadership to listen to members, trade unions and the public – and return our NHS to its founding principles.”

You can read Momentum’s Model Motion on the NHS published below:

The Tory National Health Service Crisis 

Conference Notes That:

  1. 13 years of Tory austerity have left our NHS in crisis;
  2. Nurses, paramedics and other health workers have been forced by the Conservative Government to strike for fair pay in a cost-of-living crisis;
  3. More than 100,000 NHS roles are vacant;
  4. NHS wait times are at record levels;
  5. Deaths are higher than normal due to the NHS crisis;
  6. NHS dentistry is in crisis, with 9 in 10 practices not accepting new patients;
  7. Trade unions and the Socialist Health Association have long warned of the damaging effects of NHS privatisation;
  8. Major disparities exist in maternal deaths for black women, while trans people must wait years to access gender-affirming care;
  9. ⅔ of voters want the NHS reinstated as a fully public service. 

Conference Believes That:

  1. The NHS is Labour’s greatest achievement;
  2. It is imperative the NHS remains comprehensive, universal, publicly-run and free at the point of delivery;
  3. Fair pay is vital to ending the NHS recruitment crisis;

Conference Resolves for the next Labour government to:

  1. Renationalise the NHS, returning all privatised sections to public control and ending outsourcing;
  2. Repeal the Health and Care Act 2022 and eliminate Integrated Care Systems;
  3. Immediately enact an inflation-busting pay rise for NHS staff;
  4. Reinstate free dental checks;
  5. Enact a major, long-term real-terms rise in NHS funding to fix the current crisis and adjust to an ageing society;
  6. Modernise the GRA to improve trans healthcare outcomes and invest in policies to tackle healthcare inequalities for people of colour.   

Placards reading end the NHS crisis at the SOSNHS demonstration on March 11th, 2023.

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