Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Rishi Sunak will put the NHS on a ‘war base’ to clear the backlog on a new pitch for Tory membership

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The ex-Chancellor says he will increase the use of private healthcare to treat NHS patients, convert vacant shops into clinics for scans and fire those good enough to go home to “virtual wards”.

In a speech on Saturday, the Tory leader candidate will say he will direct NHS England to increase the use of private healthcare to offer routine surgery and other treatments to bring down the number.

The NHS would be put on “war basis” to cope with the 6.6million long waiting list when Rishi Sunak becomes prime minister in September.

Many of the country’s 58,000 vacant high street stores would be turned into community diagnostic centers, where people could get MRI and CT scans and see specialists on their doorstep.

Patients trying to navigate GP appointment systems would instead be directed to an “NHS front door” via NHS 111 or the NHS app as their first point of contact for primary care treatment. This would direct them to their GP, pharmacist or other service.

To free up NHS beds, patients no longer required to be in hospital will be released to their homes but kept under surveillance in a system of “virtual wards”.

The NHS is already using private providers for some procedures to ease the burden on hospitals and former Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced earlier this year it would be increased to tackle the backlog.

But under a Sunak government this would be further expanded, although it is still free for patients at the point of use.

Mr Sunak’s plan to cut waiting lists will address the first of “five national emergencies” the country is facing.

The former chancellor, who is trailing behind rival Liz Truss in the battle to succeed Boris Johnson, is set to kick-start the second phase of the election campaign by highlighting his differences with the foreign secretary.

Mr Sunak’s focus on the NHS – funded in part by his Social Security increase this April – is designed in part to hammer home the shortage the service would face if Ms Truss won power and scrapped the tax increase.

On his first day in office, Mr Sunak will set up a vaccine-style taskforce to clear the NHS backlog, which will be led by an “independent leadership” who will do “whatever it takes” to cut waiting lists – which is happening at NHS could be a source of concern for providers and unions.

Mr Sunak will promise that no one will wait more than a year for treatment until September 2024, six months earlier than currently planned.

Describing the backlog as “the biggest public service emergency” the country is facing, Mr Sunak will also pledge to set up 200 community diagnostic centers – where people can see a specialist and get MRI and CT scans on site , rather than waiting to be examined at a hospital — until March 2024.

The network of “specialist surgical hubs” for knee, hip and cataract operations is being expanded.

Mr Sunak will say: “Wait times for everything from major surgery to GP visits are at record levels. Millions of people are waiting for life-saving cancer screening, major surgery and consultations.

“Even now, a lot of people are using money they can’t really afford to go private. This is privatization through the back door, and it is wrong. People shouldn’t have to make choices with guns to their heads.

“Unless we embark on a radically different approach immediately, the NHS will come under unbearable pressure and collapse.

“Britain’s heroic response to Covid proves that where there is the political will to really tackle an issue, if we treat something as an emergency, we can bring everyone together and win the fight. That takes leadership.

“So I will be making the most of our experience of Covid and setting up a Backlogs Taskforce at the center of my government to support the leadership of the NHS in triage and treating patients more quickly… I want to give people reassurance that this emergency is this.” do will be seized.”

However, Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting said: “If Rishi Sunak thinks NHS waiting lists are an emergency, why hasn’t he done anything about it as Chancellor?

“He says he wants to put the NHS on a ‘war basis’ but the Conservatives have spent years disarming him.

“On his watch, NHS waiting lists have reached their longest and patient satisfaction with the NHS is at its worst on record.

“Only a Labor government will give Britain the fresh start it needs. Labor will rebuild our NHS with the staff, equipment and modern technology needed to get patients treated again on a timely basis.”

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