Britain's opposition Labour sets new targets for ambulance waits

·2-min read
Leader of the Labour Party Keir Starmer attends a news conference, in London

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's Labour Party would pledge to improve ambulance response times and shorten waits for emergency treatment if they are in government, leader Keir Starmer said on Monday as he set out his party's vision for the health service.

Starmer's Labour has a double-digit poll lead over Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's Conservative Party ahead of an election expected next year, and Sunak has said cutting hospital waiting lists is one of his priorities.

The National Health Service in England has endured a tough winter, with waiting lists hitting record highs, ambulance response times of more than 90 minutes and staff striking for higher pay amid double-digit inflation.

Starmer said the Conservatives had neglected the NHS, and that Labour would increase staff training, funded by the scrapping non-domiciled tax status, to help bring down waiting times.

"I want an NHS back on its feet - of course I do. But I also want an NHS that’s fit for the future," Starmer said in a speech. "We'll leave no stone unturned when it comes to finding new ways to cut waiting lists."

Starmer said that Labour would ensure ambulances arrive within seven minutes for cardiac arrests, and would aim for waits of no more than four hours in A&E.

He added that patients would be allowed to visit nearby hospitals if faster treatment might be available compared to their local hospital. Labour would reform how people can get appointments with their local doctors, Starmer said, and give a fair pay agreement to help recruit and retain more carers.

As part of a focus on preventing poor health, Starmer said Labour would change advertising rules so that vaping, junk food and sugary snacks cannot be advertised to children.

(Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Christina Fincher)