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Children on waiting list ‘to be prioritised under Labour’

Hospital bosses will be ordered to prioritise children caught up in the NHS waiting list if Labour come into power, the party has said.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said that long waits for children are “dangerous and damaging” for their long-term health as he vowed to tackle long waiting lists should Labour win the next general election.

The party said a Labour government would write to local health leaders – integrated care boards – to give them “strategic direction to prioritise children’s waiting lists”.

Sir Keir said he would personally monitor how fast children’s waiting lists were coming down.

Analysis suggests that in November there were 180,000 waits for children’s treatment longer than 18 weeks, and 18,000 longer than a year.

The party warned that long waits for youngsters can impair their mental and physical development at a critical time in their lives.

Keir Starmer visit to Liverpool
Sir Keir said he would personally monitor how fast children’s waiting lists were coming down if Labour come into power (Peter Byrne/PA)

Labour has pledged to end waits of more than 18 weeks for patients.

Sir Keir said: “When children are waiting over a year for treatment, that is dangerous and damaging for their long-term health.

“Children waiting for huge proportions of their life for hospital treatment is heartbreaking, causes immense stress for their parents, presses pause on family life, and they need to end.

Keir Starmer visit to Liverpool
Sir Keir told staff at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool that he wanted to turn around the health of the nation’s children (Peter Byrne/PA)

“The biggest casualty of the short term ‘sticking plaster’ politics of the last 14 years are our nation’s children. My Labour government will turn this trend around, and I will personally monitor the speed at which we do.

“My government’s mission-led way of working will deliver the change the NHS needs, with a drive from the heart of government to see children’s waits for treatment end.”

On Thursday the Labour leader was quizzed by NHS staff over plans for the health service.

Sir Keir told staff at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool that he wanted to turn around the health of children, as he accused the Conservative Government of going in “completely the wrong direction”.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Cutting waiting lists is one of the government’s top five priorities, and we’re taking action to ensure no child has to wait longer than necessary for treatment.

“The total waiting list decreased by over 95,000 in November – the first month without industrial action since November 2022. During the wider pause in industrial action, it fell by approximately 158,000 patients. Waits of 18 months are already down more than 90% from their peak in September 2021.

“We are also investing record funding for the NHS, and there are record numbers of doctors and nurses.”

The Conservative party has been approached for comment.