Labour won't just save the NHS from the SNP and Tories, we'll transform it – Jackie Baillie

Some 40 per cent of hip and knee operations were carried out privately in Scotland

The NHS is Labour’s defining mission. The 1945 Labour government created the health service, free at the point of use for everyone, and the last Labour government built on that promise, guaranteeing the NHS would always be there for people when they needed it.

After 13 years of Tory rule and 16 years of SNP neglect, the next Labour government is going to have to renew the NHS. Keir Starmer laid out his vision for its future last week and it will be one which Labour will carry through to the NHS in Scotland.

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Long waiting times, deteriorating services, hospitals running hot, and staff working beyond exhaustion have brought the health service to its knees. The problems are common across the UK and saying one nation’s figures are marginally better or worse than another does not solve the crisis. Covid exacerbated the situation but did not cause it. It is the result of underfunding, lack of preparedness and lack of direction by two governments.

In Scotland, we are seeing the emergence of a two-tier health system, as those who can afford to pay go private while everyone else joins a waiting list. More than 39,000 patients were treated privately in Scotland in 2021/22, including 40 per cent of hip and knee operations.

This isn’t fair on those digging into savings or those left waiting in pain. This is not a sustainable, long-term solution and that’s why Keir Starmer has made renewing the NHS one of Labour’s five missions for government. This isn’t about simply “saving” the NHS because we cannot leave the service to stumble from crisis to crisis.

First, we have to tackle the immediate crisis of long waiting lists, delays in accident and emergency, and burnt-out staff. Scotland is set to benefit by at least £124 million a year from the next UK Labour government’s commitment to increase training places for medical staff in England. Hardworking people are the NHS’s backbone so every penny of that extra money has to go on our own staffing crisis.

There has to be a laser-like focus on reducing waiting times, but we also have to innovate and make long-term changes to create a modern health system to treat the increased numbers of patients with chronic long-term conditions and an older population.

We rely on the NHS to care for us. Now we need to look after it (Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)We rely on the NHS to care for us. Now we need to look after it (Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
We rely on the NHS to care for us. Now we need to look after it (Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Mental health and social care are areas where Labour has proposed radical solutions, starting with setting proper pay rates for care workers and abandoning the SNP’s empire-building plans for a centralised social care service.

Using a prevention-first approach and adapting to new technology and new medicines will mean a big shift in primary care. That revolution starts with babies being screened for rare diseases at birth and develops into a health and care service delivered for people in their own homes where possible.

Science and technology are the game-changers for the future of healthcare. Labour will harness the technology revolution to transform how patients, clinicians and carers interact. We won’t just save the NHS, we will transform it.

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We should live in a country in which everyone has confidence in the health service. Time and again, we have relied on the NHS to care for us. Labour’s mission is to care for the NHS.

Jackie Baillie is MSP for Dumbarton, Scottish Labour’s deputy leader and her party’s spokesperson for health



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