PMQs: Sunak challenges Starmer on ‘out of date’ NHS plans
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Diane Abbott has taken aim at Sir Keir Starmer’s plans for NHS reform as infighting erupts in Labour’s ranks. The Hackney North and Stoke Newington hit out at her party’s leader and shadow health secretary Wes Streeting, accusing the pair of using “Tory rhetoric” to discuss the health service.
The former shadow home secretary claimed plans by Sir Keir and Mr Streeting were “designed to create a smokescreen of activity shielding the fact that Labour is just not prepared to put in the level of investment that the NHS needs”.
Ms Abbott also claimed the proposals were “less about improving the NHS and more about persuading a certain group of voters and commentators that they are not going to throw money about”.
But the Labour MP said: “Trust in our fiscal stewardship will not be bolstered by throwing money at the private sector, or by further privatisation or outsourcing. That is a waste of resources.”
Ms Abbott, who is a close ally of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, instead called for health spending to be increased “to the equivalent of our European counterparts, about an extra £20-25billion”.
And she insisted “privatisation and outsourcing need to be stopped and reversed”.
Writing for the socialist Morning Star newspaper, Ms Abbott added: “There is no point in providing the NHS with its much-needed flow of funds if there is a great big hole in the bucket known as the private sector.”
Ms Abbott’s comments come after Sir Keir earlier this month warned the health service, which has come under intense pressure this winter, must “reform or die” in a break from Labour’s traditional reverence of the NHS.
The Labour leader has put forward a series of proposals including allowing patients to bypass GPs to make self-referrals to specialists to slash “bureaucratic nonsense”.
He has also called for the use of the private sector to tackle eye-watering waiting lists for treatment.
Meanwhile, Mr Streeting said in December: “I think there’s always a danger in the Labour Party that because we created the NHS, we’ve been a bit too reluctant to criticise the performance that we see in the NHS.
“We can’t afford to be romantic and misty-eyed about it – this is a service not a shrine.”
But proposals for NHS reform have prompted clashes between Blairite MPs and those on the left of the party.
Taking to Twitter earlier this month, Ms Abbott said: “Keir Starmer has joined the right in calling for the ‘reform’ of the NHS. And we all know what that means.”
But fellow Labour MP Ben Bradshaw hit back: “No, he’s leading the calls Diane, just as the Labour government between 1997 and 2010 reformed the NHS and delivered the shortest waiting times and the highest patient and staff satisfaction in the NHS’s history.”
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