More than £1bn of investment to enable staff to work overtime on evenings and weekends could help cut NHS waiting lists, the Labour Party has proposed.
This would enable an additional two million operations, scans and appointments to be carried out in the first year, with local hospitals pooling their staff and sharing waiting lists to optimise capacity.
Under this £1.1bn approach, patients would also be given the choice to travel to a nearby hospital to undergo treatment if they wish – rather than wait.
"With care backlogs at a record high, any attempt to address this is of course welcome,” said NHS Providers’ chief executive, Sir Julian Hartley, responding to the policy announcement.
“NHS staff working evening and weekend shifts is one way to improve timely patient care.”
Healthcare’s critical underlying issues would still need to be addressed however, as the NHS experiences 100,000+ vacancies and around a third of staff feeling burnt out.
The £1.1bn fund would need to be part of a broader strategy from Labour that looks at improving recruitment and retention as well as investing in infrastructure, stressed Hartley.
To cut NHS waiting lists, Labour will get an extra 2 million appointments done on evenings and weekends and provide the cutting-edge technology staff need. pic.twitter.com/sFjA9G8eZp— The Labour Party (@UKLabour) October 8, 2023
This comes shortly after the Labour Party announced its Fit For The Future Fund which would be used to equip the NHS with the latest technology.
The investment would be worth an extra £171m a year and would, much like the recent dentistry reforms announced by Labour, be funded via the abolition of the non-dom tax status.
It would require the NHS to purchase scanners with in-built AI diagnostic technology, in a bid to improve the patient experience.
While the investment would be “music to the ears” of NHS leaders, it should not infringe on the autonomy of ICSs, according to the NHS Confederation.
The organisation’s chief executive, Matthew Taylor, said: "While our members will strongly welcome a pledge for much-needed investment, we would be concerned if this marked an intent to further increase central mandating of capital expenditure.”
He added: “Local systems and trusts face different challenges and have a clear view of their own capital priorities.”
Labour has indicated that NHS trusts who do not need to purchase new scanners will be able to use the funding to update IT technology.
Overall, the fund would double the number of NHS CT and MRI scanners over the course of a parliament, according to Labour.
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