Labour to work ‘hand in glove' with business to improve NHS

The Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer defended his pledge to form "partnerships" with the private sector should Labour win power.

On a maternity ward at King's Mill Hospital in the East Midlands it feels like we’re already on an election campaign trail.

Politicians with their sleeves rolled-up, not quite kissing babies, but securing publicity photos with newborns.

The man vying to be our next prime minister is here to set out how he’d get the NHS back on its feet.

Speaking exclusively to ITV News, Sir Keir Starmer, revealed his Labour government would work “hand in glove” with business to improve our health service.

He says a Labour government would partner with Virgin Media O2 to ensure every child with type 1 diabetes can access a smartphone needed for glucose monitoring.

Sir Keir told me it’s a "travesty" that only those who can afford a smartphone are currently able to access the new technology.

But alongside Labour’s plan to use private hospitals to cut NHS waiting lists, the Labour leader’s approach could leave some on the left of the party feeling uneasy.

When I asked the Labour leader whether it’s "privatisation by the backdoor," Sir Keir told me, “we’re in a crisis point at the moment” that it is "vital" to reduce waiting lists.

Keir Starmer spoke exclusively to ITV News as Labour announced plans to team up with business to help children with Type 1 Diabetes. Credit: ITV News

The waiting list for non urgent surgery, that’s things like hip and knee operations , currently sits 7.58 million.

“Where there is capacity in the private sector so that people can go from the NHS to the private sector for their operations, that should be done to bring down the waiting lists,” Sir Keir said.

But he said the principle that healthcare and the NHS should be "free at the point of use" is "absolutely fundamental".

Asked if a future Labour government would increase taxes to spend more on the NHS, the Labour leader said their plans were fully costed.

And though he acknowledged the need to spend more on the NHS, he insisted that increased funding would only be delivered alongside reform.

Watch Sir Keir Starmer's full interview with ITV News Health Correspondent Rebecca Barry

“The amount of money that’s wasted is like pouring water into a leaky pot. It doesn’t make any sense,” Sir Keir told me.

But it will be hard for any government to reform the NHS when its staff are out on the picket line.

So I asked the Labour leader how he’d resolve the ongoing dispute with junior doctors and whether he’d agree to give them the 35% pay increase they want.

“I think that 35% is too high” he said.

“But the doctors are talking additionally about terms and conditions. I do think there are things that can be looked at there.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson told ITV News: “Deploying the latest technology already forms a vital part of our efforts to make our health service faster, simpler and fairer – only last week, NHS England that tens of thousands of children and adults living with type 1 diabetes across England will be able to receive an ‘artificial pancreas’ that monitors their blood glucose levels and automatically adjusts insulin doses in a world first initiative.

“And our Elective Recovery Taskforce was also set up last year to utilise the independent sector so patients can be treated more quickly.”

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