Wes Streeting’s speech at Labour Conference
Wes Streeting MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary
Exhibition Centre Liverpool
Nathaniel, it is truly an honour to have you with us here in Liverpool.
When you came to see me in my advice surgery that Friday afternoon, I was moved by your spirit and your courage.
Your determination to follow your great passions of music and education in the face of your terrible diagnosis blew me away.
But I also felt a deep sense of injustice that I feel now.
The injustice that the NHS didn’t reach you in time.
The injustice that delay meant the difference between life and death.
As a cancer survivor, it shakes me to my core.
I owe my life to the NHS because it was there for me when I needed it.
Not many people find themselves in a position to repay that kind of debt to the NHS.
But I can.
And I am determined to make sure that the NHS doesn’t fail people like Nathaniel anymore.
It starts with gripping the crisis in front of us.
7.7 million people waiting.
The longest waiting lists ever.
And the audacity of the fifth Conservative Prime Minister in 13 years blaming NHS staff for the Tories’ abysmal failure.
Rishi Sunak – how dare you?
There is a window of opportunity for negotiations before the next round of strikes takes place.
A serious Prime Minister would take it.
But this is his government in a nutshell
– problems are there to be exploited, rather than solved.
Meanwhile, patients are left waiting.
That’s why a Labour government will take immediate action to cut waiting lists.
We’ll provide an extra £1.1bn to help the NHS beat the backlog, with extra clinics at evenings and weekends
– providing two million more appointments each year.
Faster treatment for patients.
Extra pay for staff.
The first step to cut waiting lists and beat the Tory backlog.
Paid for by abolishing the non-dom tax status, because patients need treatment more than the wealthiest need a tax break.
We’ve also got to deal with the immediate crisis in NHS dentistry.
Things are so bad that the number one cause of hospital admissions among children is tooth decay.
People are pulling their own teeth out with pliers because they can’t get an NHS dentist.
This is Dickensian.
In 21st century Britain.
That’s why Labour will deliver 700,000 extra appointments each year, get more dentists into the communities that need them most, and make sure that everyone who needs an NHS dentist can get one.
But tackling the immediate crisis isn’t enough.
It’s our mission to get the NHS back on its feet and fit for the future.
Achieving our mission will take time, investment, and reform.
Reform is even more important than investment.
Because pouring ever-increasing amounts of money into a system that isn’t working is wasteful in every sense.
A waste of money we don’t have.
A waste of time that is running out.
A waste of potential, because the NHS has so much going for it.
Labour will never abandon the founding principles of the NHS as a publicly funded public service, free at the point of use.
I make the case for reform not in opposition to those principles but in defence of them.
I’m blunt about the fact that the NHS is no longer the envy of the world, not to undermine it, but to reassure people that we’ve noticed.
I argue that our NHS must modernise or die, not as a threat but a choice.
The crisis really is that existential.
When I look at leading health systems across the world, the fundamental problem with the NHS becomes obvious.
We have an NHS that gets to people too late.
A hospital-based system geared towards late diagnosis and treatment, delivering poorer outcomes at greater cost.
An analogue system in a digital age.
A sickness service, not a health service.
With too many lives hampered by preventable illness.
And too many lives lost to the biggest killers.
So be in no doubt about the scale of the challenge.
Not just because as waiting lists rise, public confidence falls.
But because in the longer term the challenge of rising chronic disease, combined with our ageing society, threatens to bankrupt the NHS.
The Tories answer is all sticking plasters in the short term but an abandonment of the NHS in the longer term.
As we saw in Manchester last week, the Conservative Party dances to the tune of Nigel Farage now.
And the more they move to the right, the greater their threat to our NHS becomes.
So it falls to us, the Party that founded the NHS 75 years ago, to rescue, rebuild and renew the health service today.
Labour’s reform agenda will turn the NHS on its head.
– From hospital to community.
– Analogue to digital.
– Sickness to prevention.
A neighbourhood health service as much as a National Health Service, pioneering cutting edge treatment and technology, preventing ill-health, not just treating it.
And what gives me hope are the people working with and for the NHS today, who are leading the way to that better future.
There is nothing wrong with the NHS that can’t be cured by what’s right with the NHS.
In Sussex, GPs work together providing specialist and urgent care in the community, allowing patients to see their regular family doctor, and giving them greater control over their own care.
They’re preventing 4,000 patients from having to go to hospital every year.
Primary care will be at the heart of Labour’s plan for the NHS – we’ll train thousands more GPs and cut the red tape that ties up their time.
Labour will bring back the family doctor.
Faced with the appalling effects of the pandemic on children’s mental health, schools in Bury are working with the NHS to deliver support.
The number of children requiring mental health services has been cut in half.
Every child struggling with their mental health should get the help they need.
Labour will put mental health support in every school and hubs in every community, paid for by abolishing tax breaks for private schools.
Politics is about choices. Labour chooses to give every child the best start in life, not just the privileged few.
There is no solution to the crisis in the NHS that doesn’t include a plan for social care.
We will grip the immediate crisis in social care, starting with the workforce, and I’ll have the best ally I could hope for
– the former care worker turned Deputy Prime Minister, Angela Rayner.
Together, Ange and I will deliver a New Deal for Care Workers.
A workforce plan to address recruitment and retention, the professional status these remarkable people deserve, and the first ever Fair Pay Agreement for care professionals.
The first step on our ten-year plan for a National Care Service.
One of the biggest opportunities we have is the revolution taking place in medical science and technology.
That revolution is happening here in Britain.
We’re a world leader in life sciences.
Home to some of the smartest tech entrepreneurs.
Take Moorfields Eye Hospital, where artificial intelligence identifies signs of disease on scans, with an accuracy equal to world-leading experts.
They spot conditions earlier and prioritise patients with the most serious diseases before irreversible damage sets in.
The next Labour government will arm the NHS with state-of-the-art equipment and new technology to cut waiting times Our ‘Fit For The Future Fund’ will double the number of scanners in the NHS, so patients are diagnosed earlier, and treated faster.
More than that – breakthroughs in genomics and AI mean that we’ll soon be able to predict and prevent illness in the first place.
If we combine the care of the NHS, with the ingenuity of our country’s leading scientific minds, the NHS could once again be the envy of the world.
At the heart of Keir’s mission driven approach is this idea:
Transformation of the National Health Service must go hand in hand with a transformation of the health of the nation.
A child born in Britain today should live to see the 22nd century.
I want them to be part of the healthiest generation that ever lived.
That’s Labour’s ambition for children.
And we will bring it to life by taking tough action against those who are cutting our children’s lives short.
We will ban junk food ads targeted at children.
Bridget’s breakfast clubs will provide every primary school pupil with a healthy, nutritious start to the day, making sure they have hungry minds, not hungry bellies.
We’ll introduce supervised toothbrushing to keep kids’ teeth clean and keep them out of hospital.
And to those in the vaping industry, who have sought to addict a generation of children to nicotine with flavours like rainbow burst and cotton candy ice, you have been warned,
– a Labour government will come down on you like a ton of bricks.
Back in January, I proposed going even further by outlawing the sale of cigarettes to the next generation altogether.
Tory MPs said it was “nanny state”,
“an attack on ordinary people and their culture”,
They accused me of “health fascism”.
Unfortunately for them,
Labour is winning the battle of ideas, and where Labour leads Rishi Sunak follows.
We’ll vote through the ban on selling cigarettes to kids, so that young people are even less likely to smoke than they are to vote Tory.
Conference, those are just the first steps of what is needed.
Our reforms will be fundamental and deep.
They have to be if the NHS is to be there for us in the next 75 years, as it has in the last 75 years.
The choice at the general election is clear.
We can see the future with the Tories unfolding before our eyes.
A two-tier health service, where those who can afford it go private and those who can’t are left behind.
Our NHS reduced to a poor service for poor people.
Our country viewed as the sick man of Europe.
Labour has a different vision for our future.
Where no one fears ill-health or old age.
Where people have power, choice and control over their own health and care.
Where the place you’re born or the wealth you’re born into don’t determine how long you’ll live.
Where patients benefit from the brightest minds developing cutting edge treatments.
And where children born in Britain today become the healthiest generation that ever lived.
That’s Labour’s ambition for our country.
To those who say that we’re all the same and that voting never changes anything, tell them:
13 years of Conservative government have delivered the longest waiting lists and lowest patient satisfaction on record.
13 years of Labour government delivered the shortest waiting times and the highest patient satisfaction in history.
That’s the Labour difference.
And when they ask what does Labour stand for, tell them:
Two million more appointments a year to cut waiting lists.
700,000 more appointments with NHS dentists.
Mental health support in every school.
Mental health hubs in every community.
Double the number of scanners.
The biggest expansion of NHS staff in history.
More doctors, more nurses, more midwives.
An NHS that’s there for you when you need it.
Back on its feet and fit for the future.
So let’s go out there and give Britain its hope back.
Let’s give Britain its NHS back.
Together, with Keir, let’s give Britain its future back.