Starmer says NHS medics will back his overtime plan despite lure of private work

Sir Keir Starmer insisted doctors would sign up to his plan for extra weekend appointments to bring down England’s NHS waiting lists despite being able to earn more doing private work.

The Labour leader, who has faced criticism for being too “timid”, insisted he had plans to grow the economy, build more houses and get the NHS back on its feet.

His overtime plan will enable the NHS to provide an extra two million operations, scans, and appointments in the first year.

An extra £1.1 billion will provide NHS staff overtime to work evening and weekend shifts, so more procedures can be carried out.

Labour Party Women’s Conference 2023
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer has faced criticism for being too ‘timid’ (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

But it relies on NHS staff volunteering for extra shifts despite the lure of more lucrative private work.

Around 7.7 million people in England are waiting for NHS hospital treatment.

Sir Keir told the BBC that doctors “will probably got more (money) in the private sector” but he believed they would do overtime for the NHS “because they want to bring down the waiting list as well”.

NHS staff “are up for this because they know that bringing down the waiting list will reduce the pressure on them in the long run”, he said.

He told the Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme: “They want to do this just as much as we do and it is desperately needed.

“We need growth in our economy, we need to raise living standards across the country.

Patients waiting for NHS hospital treatment in England
(PA Graphics)

Royal College of Nursing chief nurse Professor Nicola Ranger said: “Nursing staff work so much overtime that is never paid – staying behind an hour or two after 12-hour shifts to keep patients safe – so a change in this culture is needed.”

But ultimately she said hundreds of thousands more nursing staff could be needed.

In other developments as the Labour conference began on Sunday:

– Unite union boss Sharon Graham told Sky she would keep Sir Keir’s “feet to the fire” and claimed the party had been “too timid”.

– Sir Keir said he would scrap the Government’s scheme to send asylum seekers to Rwanda even if it cleared the courts and proved successful in deterring English Channel crossings.

– Labour set out plans for existing further education (FE) colleges to turn into new specialist “technical excellence colleges” teaching skills needed by local businesses.

Industrial strike
Unite union general secretary Sharon Graham urged Labour to do more to help working people (Jacob King/PA)

– Labour will issue a new membership card, with a commitment to “putting the country first” in what aides said was a sign that Sir Keir was leading a “proudly patriotic party”.

– Leading barrister and former wife of ex-prime minister Boris Johnson, Marina Wheeler KC, to be appointed the party’s “whistleblowing tsar” to advise on reforms to protect women who expose people who bully and sexually harass staff, the Independent reported.

Sir Keir insisted he was confident Labour’s plans would deliver the economic growth he needs to invest in public services if he wins the next election.

He said the goal of having the highest sustained growth in the G7 group of wealthy democracies was the “central mission” for an incoming Labour government.

“My confidence comes not from coming on here and simply asserting it this Sunday morning, but because of months and years of careful conversations with those that will be delivering this with us,” he said.

Part of that could mean reforms to planning rules, which could help deliver 1.5 million homes, Sir Keir said.

Labour Party Conference 2023
Labour Party Party leader Sir Keir Starmer and deputy leader Angela Rayner at the conference in Liverpool (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

As activists gathered in Liverpool for what could be the final Labour conference before the general election expected next year, Sir Keir said the party would make the “positive case for change” with a pitch to swing voters that would “weld together” competence and the offer of fresh hope after 13 years of Tory rule.

The party’s members gather in Liverpool enjoying consistent double-digit poll leads over the Tories and buoyed by the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election triumph over the SNP, but Sir Keir warned against complacency.

“It is not going to be giddy, it is not going to be ‘job done’,” Sir Keir told the Observer.

“So you won’t get razzmatazz. You won’t see mistakes that have been made in the past by opposition parties.”

Conservative Party chairman Greg Hands said: “Sir Keir Starmer represents the same old short-term politics because he has no principles – he will change what he says according to what people want to hear because he’s afraid of losing votes.

“Sir Keir is just like the same old politicians that have come before – always focused on the short-term and lacking the backbone to make the big changes Britain needs.”

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