Labour sets out more detail on pledge to cut NHS waiting lists

Hospitals would be expected to pool staff and share waiting lists as part of a Labour drive to deliver an extra 40,000 NHS appointments a week.

Under the plans, hospitals will run evening and weekend surgeries, with staff and resources pooled across a region.

Patients will be offered appointments at nearby hospitals, rather than necessarily at their local one, allowing them to be treated faster.

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said: “Fourteen years of Conservative neglect has seen waiting lists treble and, despite Rishi Sunak’s promise, they are still rising.


“Only Labour has a plan to reform our NHS, get hospitals working together with shared waiting lists and staff, to get patients treated on time again.”

The party has pledged to spend £1.1 billion to pay staff extra for out-of-hours working to deliver the promised 40,000 weekly operations, scans or appointments.

The opposition believes it can raise the money through clamping down on tax dodgers and tightening up the rules on non-domiciled people.

Labour highlighted the way staff at Guys and St Thomas’s in London used a high-intensity theatre (HIT) list to more efficiently perform more procedures.

The HIT list system involves increasing the number of anaesthetic, surgical and theatre staff in order to minimise the turnaround time between cases.

By using two theatres at the same time, surgeons can be operating at the same time as their next patient is being prepared and anaesthetised.

While on a normal working day they can perform three knee surgeries for patients, they get through 12 when doing a HIT list.

The HIT lists focus on one type of procedure at a time, and take place at weekends.

But Labour research indicated more than half of England’s hospitals close operating theatres at the weekends.

According to a Labour Party Freedom of Information request last year, hospitals performed an average of 795 procedures on weekdays, but just 176 on Saturdays or Sundays.

Mr Streeting said: “We will learn from the great innovations already happening in the health service, and take the best of the NHS to the rest of the NHS.

“That’s how Labour will cut NHS waiting times with 40,000 more evening and weekend appointments each week, paid for by clamping down on tax dodgers and non-dom loopholes.”

The promise to cut NHS waiting lists was one of the “first steps” for a Labour government set out by Sir Keir Starmer.

The Tories repeated their claim that Labour will have to raise taxes to fill a £38.5 billion hole in their spending commitments.

Conservative Party chairman Richard Holden said: “While Labour would increase your taxes, the Conservatives are making progress on cutting the NHS waiting lists which have fallen by around 200,000 since September 2023, the biggest six-month fall in over 10 years outside the pandemic.

“Rishi Sunak and the Conservatives are sticking with the plan which is working, helping patients get the care they need more quickly so they can lead healthy and happy lives.”