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In a Tory leadership campaign speech, the former chancellor will promise to set up a new taskforce with sweeping powers dedicated to ensuring healthcare waiting lists are falling across the country by next year if he becomes prime minister. His plan aims to help 6.6 million patients currently waiting for life-saving cancer screening, surgeries and consultations.
He will also propose an expansion of private healthcare within the NHS while still keeping treatment free at the point of delivery for patients.
And he is to consider giving patients the right to have a nominated family doctor if they want one rather than being simply attached to a surgery.
In his speech in the East Midlands, Mr Sunak will say: “Waiting times for everything from major surgery to a visit to the GP are at record levels. Millions of people are waiting for life saving cancer screening, major surgeries and consultations.
“Already many people are using money they can’t really afford to go private. That is privatisation by the back door and it’s wrong.
“People shouldn’t have to make a choice with a gun to their head.
“If we do not immediately set in train a radically different approach the NHS will come under unsustainable pressure and break.
“And so from day one I will make tackling the NHS backlog my number one public service priority.”
Mr Sunak will argue that an urgent response is needed to save the NHS from coming under unsustainable pressure.
He will insist he comes from an “NHS family”, pointing out that his father was an NHS GP and his mother worked in a pharmacy.
His plan aims to eliminate one-year waits by September 2024, six months earlier than planned by Boris Johnson’s Government.
The former chancellor will add: “Britain’s heroic response to covid proves that where the political will exists to really grip a problem, when we treat something as an emergency, we can bring everyone together and win the battle. That takes leadership.
“So I’ll take the best of our experience from Covid and establish at the centre of my government a Backlogs Taskforce to support the leadership of the NHS to triage and treat patients quicker… I want to give people peace of mind that this emergency will be gripped.”
Mr Sunak’s speech is part of his effort to assert that he is the leadership candidate with the best chance of beating Labour at the next general election.
His focus on the NHS suggests his commitment keeping the support of former Labour voters in the so-called “Red Wall” north of England constituencies who have switched to the Tories in the last two general elections.
His blueprint for the NHS will include:
- On his first day in Downing Street if he wins the Tory leadership contest, he will establish a task force similar to the body that rolled out the covid vaccine to NHS cut bureaucracy and waste, and drive radical reforms of the healthcare system.
- Bringing all waiting lists up to date to create a single, reliable source responsible for publishing the figures. Anyone who has been waiting over 18 weeks will be contacted by their NHS Trust within 100 days under his plan;
- Delivering 200 Community Diagnostics Hubs by March 2024, where people can receive life saving services like MRI and CT scans;
- Expanding the network of ‘specialist surgical hubs’ – centres that systematically undertake low complexity procedures like knee, hip and cataracts operations;
- Putting patients not computers in charge of when and how patients see consultants, cutting down on wasted appointment slots;
- Cutting back the bureaucracy said to be stopping the world’s brightest doctors and nurses in other countries from joining the NHS;
- Expanding the use of free at the point of use, private healthcare to drive up NHS capacity and standards.
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