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Labour to prioritise cyber security within £37bn NHS investment pledge

The Labour party has pledged to bring forward £10 billion of capital funding to upgrade IT systems and buildings and ‘prioritise cyber security’.

It says this comes part of a ‘New Deal’ for the NHS that would see it pump an extra £37bn over the next Parliament if it comes to power.

The Labour Party has now published its final manifesto, without any changes to pledges made on general practice compared to last week’s leaked draft.

The pledged money, which comes as the NHS is reeling from a malware attack which closed down GP practices and stopped hospital staff from working on Friday, would also ensure the NHS can meet waiting time targets, the party said.

Announcing the new cash, the party said this would:

  • take one million people off waiting lists by guaranteeing treatment within 18 weeks;
  • guarantee patients can be seen in A&E within four hours;
  • introduce a new, additional one-hour guarantee for the most urgent patients to be seen at A&E;
  • develop a new target for delayed discharge of patients ensuring 80% of patients are released from hospital with an appropriate care package within a week of being deemed ready for release;
  • create a new £500m winter pressures fund to help hospitals to cope with rising demand; and
  • deliver the Cancer Strategy for England in full by 2020.

Speaking at the Royal College of Nurses Conference today, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will say: ‘In the past seven years the Tories have driven our National Health Service into crisis.

‘A&E departments are struggling to cope. Waiting lists are soaring and, and as we saw last week, Tory cuts have exposed patient services to cyber attack.’

Mr Corbyn further warned that the NHS could be privatised and parts hived off under the Conservatives:

He said: ‘Imagine what would happen to the NHS if the Conservatives under Theresa May were to have another five years in power,’ said Mr Corbyn. ‘It would be unrecognisable: a national health service in name, cut back, broken up and plundered by private corporations.’

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s shadow health secretary, said: ‘Clinicians, experts and patients have all been calling for a significant cash boost to the NHS. We’ve listened to those calls and we agree. Labour will rebuild the NHS for the 21st Century, giving patients the modern, well-resourced services they need both in and out of hospital.’

The party said its funding pledges would be paid for ‘substantially’ by raising income tax for the highest 5% of earners, as well as corporation tax increases, higher rate insurance premium tax on private medical insurance and using Labour’s National Transformation Fund of capital expenditure.

Dr Mark Porter, BMA chair, said: ‘The NHS is chronically understaffed and underfunded, so the promise of additional investment is desperately needed. It is important to remember, however, that the funding gap in the NHS will soon hit £30bn a year.

‘This is having a devastating impact on patients who are facing unacceptably long delays in care, and staff who are working under impossible conditions in an NHS at breaking point.’

Dr Porter said that one indicator of ‘cutting investment to the bone’ was the fact that the NHS was currently bearing the brunt of cyber-attacks due to reliance on obsolete software. He said it was a ‘serious wake up call for politicians to the risks of starving the NHS of necessary funding’.

As a minimum, the next Government should bring spending on the NHS in line with other European countries, which would see it rise by more than £10bn a year, added Dr Porter.

Note: This story was updated at 11:45 Tuesday 16 May to include information on the Labour Party’s final manifesto.