Keir Starmer: Nothing is off the table when comes to NHS reform

Keir Starmer has pledged to reform the NHS in order to save the health service which he said was in its “worst position” since it was created.

Speaking on BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg, Sir Keir said nothing was off the table in order to reform the service.

“The reason I want to reform the health service is I want to preserve it.

“I think if we don’t reform the health service, we will be in managed decline.

“The health service is in the worst position it has been in its entire history under the Tories,” he said.

Asked later in the interview whether he would look at a social insurance model, he said: “Look, free at the point of use is the founding principle of the NHS and it is absolutely fundamental for me.”

Asked whether he had ever used private healthcare after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak admitted doing so, Sir Keir said: “No.”

Ahead of the interview, Sir Keir formally gave his backing to his shadow health secretary’s reforms to effectively nationalise GP services.

Wes Streeting’s proposals to make general practitioners salaried NHS employees have been criticised in some quarters of the medical profession.

But Sir Keir, writing in The Sunday Telegraph, said that “if we don’t get real about reform, the NHS will die”, giving his backing to overhauling the current GP model.

The pledges have echoes of New Labour’s 1997 promises, when Sir Tony Blair swept into power on the back of a manifesto vowing to slash NHS waiting times and make the service more patient-focused.

Sir Keir used his article to outline a series of reforms that a future Labour government would introduce.

They included getting rid of “bureaucratic nonsense” to allow patients to bypass GPs and self-refer themselves to specialists.

He also backed gradually “phasing in a new system” for GPs, turning family doctors into direct NHS employees.

The current model sees self-employed GPs run their own practices under contracts awarded by the NHS.

But the Opposition leader said it was time to accept that the system needed overhauling, with the pressure on GP surgeries causing more people to resort to attending hospital instead.

Sir Keir suggested young doctors were not keen on taking on the “burdens and liabilities” of the current system as older GPs leave the workforce.

“As GPs retire and those contracts are handed back, I want to phase in a new system that sees GPs fairly rewarded within the NHS, working much more closely with other parts of the system,” he said.

“Not everyone will want to hear this - but it is the direction we need to go in.”