Shadow health secretary considered using private healthcare after finding lump

Labour’s shadow health secretary has said he considered using private healthcare after finding a suspicious lump.

Wes Streeting, who underwent treatment for cancer in 2021, told ITV1’s Peston that, on being told recently that he needed to have a scan, his first thought had been how long the referral would take.

He said: “I was absolutely terrified and I think psychologically I gave myself, or gave the NHS, a month, and I thought to myself if the NHS can’t see me within a month, then I’m going to seriously consider paying to go private.

“I never, ever thought those words would cross my lips, I never thought that thought would cross my mind, but I think that’s the choice that lots of people around the country have been forced to make.

“Now, in the end the NHS could see me within a month and I’m all fine and no-one needs to worry. But I don’t judge people who’ve made a different choice.”

The question of private healthcare has been raised several times during the General Election campaign after Sir Keir Starmer said he would not pay to go private if he or a loved one faced a long wait for NHS treatment, while Rishi Sunak said he would.

Asked again about his statement on Monday, the Labour leader told The Sun’s Never Mind The Ballots show: “Waiting lists are now, what, nearly eight million, it’s absolutely shocking numbers, and the idea that the person who wants to be prime minister of this country would say it’s my responsibility – it will be, it’s not my mess, but it will be my responsibility to deal with it – is going to say to the nation I’m going to get your waiting lists down but in the meantime I’m going to jump the queue.”

Graphic of opinion polls
(PA Graphics)

Labour has previously said it would use the private sector to treat NHS patients in the short term to get waiting lists down.

Mr Streeting said: “What I am angry about is that it’s only those with the financial means that can access that capacity of a private sector.

“And that’s why we feel strongly that where there is spare capacity in the short to medium term, as we rebuild capacity in the NHS, we will use the independent sector to get waiting lists down faster.”