Thank you to everyone who contacted me about the #CatchUpWithCancer campaign. I absolutely share your concern about the harm out-of-control waiting lists are causing to people with cancer symptoms or diagnoses.
After twelve years of underfunding and understaffing, our NHS had been left in a weakened state even before the pandemic hit. When Labour was last in government, thanks to our management of the economy we were able to raise NHS spending by an average of 6% per year. That’s a far cry from what the Tories have offered over the past twelve years; a dismal 1% annually during the Coalition era and just 3.3% this year.
As I said on ITV’s Peston last year, the impact of Tory mismanagement is shocking. According to Macmillan Cancer Support, in 2022 over half a million people in England waited more than two weeks to see a specialist following an urgent GP referral. Those are the worst figures on record and more than 10 times higher than a decade ago. Tragically, for some with cancer that lost time could be the difference between life and death.
Meanwhile, the number of people forced to go private to jump the queue has doubled in the past decade, a damning indictment of the neglect of our health service. It’s completely unacceptable that some are being forced to pay for the healthcare they need, while those that can’t are simply left to wait.
In government, Labour would do things differently. We need more than the short-term sticking plasters we’ve seen time and time again from the Tories, which is why in government we’ve pledged to draw up a proper 10-year plan for the NHS, and also to fixing the workforce crisis by doubling the number of medical training places and creating an additional 10,000 nursing clinical placements every year.
I’m proud of the incredible record that Labour had on NHS waiting lists when we were in power. Between 2000 and 2010, we succeeded in reducing the typical wait time for hospital treatment from thirteen weeks to just four.
That’s why the simple truth is that without a Labour government we cannot return our NHS to full health. But in the meantime, please be assured that I will continue to put pressure on the government to ensure cancer diagnosis and treatment gets the resources and focus it needs to ensure waiting lists come down and lives are saved.