Labour will seek to ‘ramp up’ weekend and evening scans

As part of efforts to address the NHS crisis, the Labour Party has announced intentions to fund more overtime and scans at weekends

Published: 18 December 2023 Government & NHS

The Labour Party announced that it plans to increase the number of weekend and evening hospital appointments to address NHS waiting lists.

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer called on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to fund more overtime for doctors and nurses, using money generated by ending the non-domiciled residents tax status, which allows individuals who have a residence in the UK to only pay tax on their permanent place of residence abroad.

Seven million patients waiting

Last week, data from NHS England revealed waiting lists stood at around 7.71 million treatments pending. Some patients are on multiple pathways – the number of unique patients is estimated to be around 6.44 million.

This represents a slight drop from the record 7.77 million treatments pending and 6.5 million patients waiting at the end of September.

Charlotte Beardmore, executive director of professional policy at the Society of Radiographers, said: “The plan naturally sounds positive and something we would wish to support if we could, as improving access to imaging for patients is important in supporting improved patient outcomes, however the big challenge is that simply extending the working hours of the equipment without consideration of how the imaging services will be staffed is simply raising expectation with the public falsely.

“There is currently a significant shortage of diagnostic radiography staff available to undertake the imaging. All images also require reporting and therefore the capacity to provide patient reports must also be factored in if there are to be benefits for patients.”

Shadow health secretary Wes Streetingwill join Mr Starmer in a visit to a hospital trust in Yorkshire on Monday, where weekend clinics have been introduced.

'Ramp up weekend appointments, clear the backlog'

Mr Starmer told the Standard: “Labour has a fully-funded, NHS-backed plan to ramp up weekend appointments, clear the backlog and help give people their lives back. There is one reason it’s not happening, and that’s a political choice by the Prime Minister to keep a tax loophole for the wealthiest.”

Labour has previously pledged to provide 2 million more operations, scans, and appointments a year on evenings and weekends, with £1.1 billion paid to staff in overtime; to double the number of NHS scanners, buying AI-scanners which work 35% faster, to diagnose patients earlier; and to deliver 700,000 urgent dentistry appointments. 

Mr Streeting said earlier this year: “A Labour government will take immediate action to cut waiting lists. We’ll provide an extra £1.1bn to help the NHS beat the backlog, with extra clinics at evenings and weekends – providing two million more appointments each year.

“Faster treatment for patients. Extra pay for staff. The first step to cut waiting lists and beat the Tory backlog. Paid for by abolishing the non-dom tax status, because patients need treatment more than the wealthiest need a tax break.”

The Labour Party currently leads over the Conservatives in most opinion polls heading in 2024. The next UK general election must take place before January 2025, but many political pundits believe Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will announce a general election at some point next year. 

(Image: Leon Neal via Getty Images)