Shadow health minister Diane Abbott has indicated she would focus on funding a five-day NHS, in contrast to the current Government’s agenda of rolling out a routine seven-day service.
Speaking this morning in a healthcare debate at the Labour Party’s annual conference in Liverpool, Ms Abbott suggested the Government could afford the NHS if it got its priorities straight.
Ms Abbott said that because people were living longer with more long-term health conditions there was ‘a funding crisis and a funding gap’ in the NHS, but added: ‘I will also say this – it is not whether we can afford the NHS, it is whether we actually choose to make the money available’.
She questioned health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s agenda of rolling out routine care across seven days, when the NHS is struggling to manage this across five days.
Referring to the junior doctor contract dispute, which this weekend saw the BMA cancelling a series of planned strikes, Ms Abbott said: ‘So long as Jeremy Hunt remains so stubborn, it is not clear what the solution is going to be…
‘He is wedded to this false assertion that he has to impose a contract to have a seven-day NHS. On the one hand, NHS staff work at weekends… but having the enhanced seven-day service he wants takes money and resources which he is not offering.
‘If we can scarcely fund the five-day week NHS, how are we going to do it over seven days?’
Her comments come as NHS England announced last week that it will spend £6 per patient on extending routine GP services across seven days a week, with the level of service depending on local demand.