Sir Keir Starmer promises mental health reforms under a Labour government as he welcomes Tory defector

Sir Keir Starmer will vow to "inject resource and reform" into mental health services as he welcomes the latest addition to his party.

The Labour leader will promise to "overhaul" the way mental health is approached if he wins the election, on a visit on Monday with his party's newest MP.

Dr Dan Poulter MP crossed the floor on Saturday in anger over the Tory Party's handling of the NHS.

The psychiatrist and former Conservative health minister said Rishi Sunak's government was "failing" the health service and that he could no longer "look my NHS colleagues in the eye" as a Tory.

"The health service has ceased to be an area of priority for the Conservative Party, and that is now showing in the strain on the front line and the deterioration of care for patients," he said.

The part-time working medic added that "the only cure is a Labour government", and that he would support Sir Keir and shadow health secretary Wes Streeting on NHS policy.

Sir Keir said "it's fantastic" that Dr Poulter has joined his party and will help get the NHS back on its feet.

Appearing alongside Dr Poulter, he will highlight how a Labour government would focus on mental health reform.

The party has pointed to NHS data showing some 120,000 children waited six months or longer between referral for mental health support and treatment in 2022-23.

Sir Keir has branded these waiting times "a scar on a civilised society".

He says Labour plan to improve the Mental Health Act and provide 8,500 specially-trained mental health staff, support in every school and an open access early intervention hub in every community, paid for by closing tax loopholes.

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Sir Keir said: "My Labour government will inject resource and reform into NHS mental health services to not just turn around the shocking figures and give people their lives back, but to completely overhaul the way our country approaches mental health."

Dr Poulter will take the Labour whip until the general election but will not be standing again to be the MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, a traditionally safe Tory seat where he was first elected in 2010.

It is the first time a Conservative MP has crossed the floor to Labour since Christian Wakeford in 2022 and is the second defection under Mr Sunak, after former Tory deputy chairman Lee Anderson left the party for Reform earlier this year.

Health minister Maria Caulfield said: "Sir Keir Starmer's own shadow mental health minister resigned over Labour's failing to take mental health seriously.

"What's more, where Labour are in power in Wales, they are failing patients with more people left waiting longer for the care they need. Labour would take us back to square one."