Dan Poulter: Latest Tory defection shows only Sir Keir Starmer can be 'trusted with NHS', Labour's Wes Streeting says

The defection of an MP - who works as an NHS doctor - from the Tories to the Labour Party shows that only Sir Keir Starmer can be "trusted" with the health service, a shadow minister has claimed.

Wes Streeting, Labour's shadow health secretary, said Dr Dan Poulter's move reflected "disaffection and disillusionment felt by millions".

Mr Streeting told Sky News' Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips that the defection - which follows on from Christian Wakeford in 2022 - is a "reflection of the state of the modern Conservative Party".

"I think it reflects the disaffection and disillusionment felt by millions of Conservative voters across the country who are thinking about who to vote for in the next general election," he said.

"I think it also reflects a changed Labour Party, frankly, that someone like Dan Poulter, who has worked in the NHS, cares passionately about the NHS, has come to the conclusion that only Labour can be trusted with the NHS."

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Mr Poulter dashed Rishi Sunak's week of policy announcements - including an uplift in defence spending and the Rwanda scheme finally becoming law - to announce he was leaving the Tories for their main rivals this weekend.

The MP for Suffolk Central and Ipswich North, who had a majority of 23,391 at the last election, has indicated he is not planning to stand at the next general election.

His defection was revealed in an article on The Observer website, in which he said working as a mental health doctor in a busy hospital A&E over the past year had shown him how desperate the NHS situation had become.

"Working on the frontline of a health service under great strain left me at times, as an MP, struggling to look my NHS colleagues, my patients and my constituents in the eye," he said.

He recalled seriously ill patients suffering long waits for treatment often hundreds of miles from their homes, adding that the "chaos of today's fragmented patchwork of community addiction services" had put more pressure on already-stretched A&Es.

"The mental toll of a service stretched close to breaking point is not confined to patients and their families. It also weighs heavily on my NHS colleagues who are unable to deliver the right care in a system that simply no longer works for our patients," he added.

Dr Poulter, who served as a health minister from 2012 to 2015, told the BBC in a pre-recorded interview that Labour had a "track record" of improving the NHS.

"If we want to do better for patients, we want to restore that service to where it was before, then I believe that we need to look to a party that has a track record when it was in government before under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, that has a track record of delivering for patients, transforming services, getting on top of waiting lists, investing in community health care, and that's what Keir Starmer and the Labour Party I know will do and they will be trusted, I'm sure, to do it by NHS staff as well," he told the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg.

He said patients "deserve better" and it "shouldn't be the case in a civilised health system" that a third of patients are waiting more than 60 days for urgent cancer care.

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Dr Poluter's claims were rejected by policing minister Chris Philp, who told Kuenssberg: "I don't accept what Dan is saying at all.

"We're now spending £165bn a year on the NHS, that's more than ever, at any point in history.

"That isn't the sign of a party de-prioritising the NHS. That is a sign of a political party, the Conservatives, investing heavily in our NHS because it is a priority."