NHS reform more important than investment, Streeting to say as conference ends

A Labour government would “turn the NHS on its head”, shadow health secretary Wes Streeting will say as he argues reform is more important than pouring money into a health system “that isn’t working”.

He will warn that the NHS faces bankruptcy unless it is overhauled as he sets out plans to shift its focus from hospitals to providing more care in the community, from analogue to digital, and from sickness to prevention.

The senior frontbencher will speak as Labour’s conference in Liverpool draws to a close, a day after Sir Keir Starmer’s keynote speech was disrupted by a glitter-throwing protester.

Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson will also address the gathering’s final day to pledge that Labour would tackle the “chronic cultural problem with maths” by making sure it is taught better to children from a younger age.

Mr Streeting will say that Labour’s changes to the NHS will provide a better service for patients while securing better value for taxpayers’ money.

He is expected to say: “Be in no doubt about the scale of the challenge. In the longer term, the challenge of rising chronic disease, combined with our ageing society, threatens to bankrupt the NHS.

A protester disrupts Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour conference speech (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“A waste of money we don’t have. A waste of time that is running out. A waste of potential, because the NHS has so much going for it.”

He will vow to create “a neighbourhood health service as much as a National Health Service, pioneering cutting edge treatment and technology, preventing ill-health, not just treating it.

“Achieving our mission will take time, investment, and reform. Reform is even more important than investment.”

Labour has unveiled details of its NHS reform agenda at the conference, including paying staff overtime and providing extra scanners in a bid to bring down record waiting lists.

Conference fringe events featuring the 40-year-old Mr Streeting were routinely packed.

In her speech, Ms Phillipson will set out Labour’s plans to boost “real world” maths teaching in primary schools and early intervention to encourage stronger lifelong numeracy.

The proposals will centre on upskilling primary school teachers so they can deliver high-quality maths teaching, and Labour would also launch an expert-led review to drive high standards in education.

The party said it would task its Curriculum Review with bringing maths to life and directing teachers to show children how numeracy is used in the world around them – such as through household budgeting, currency exchange rates when going on holiday, sports league tables and cookery recipes.

Labour’s school curriculum reforms
Bridget Phillipson will say Labour would ‘tackle our chronic cultural problem with maths by making sure it’s better taught at six’ (Gareth Fuller/PA)

It comes after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced plans to introduce the Advanced British Standard (ABS) – a new single post-16 qualification which will eventually replace A-levels and T-levels.

Under the long-term reforms, 16 to 19-year-olds in England will typically study five subjects and they will be required to study some form of English and mathematics until the age of 18.

Labour’s intervention would seek to target problems with childhood numeracy that persist into adulthood – such as the inability to analyse basic graphs and calculate the value of supermarket offers.

Ms Phillipson is expected to say: “I am determined that Labour will bring maths to life for the next generation. I want the numeracy all our young people need – for life and for work, to earn and to spend, to understand and to challenge. I want that to be part of their learning right from the start.”

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