LABOUR have been criticised after they called for greater use of “private sector capacity” in the NHS.

Keir Starmer’s party were accused of “saying the quiet part out loud” after they said for the UK Government should use more privately-owned health services to deliver NHS care.

The party insisted the healthcare would remain free at the point of delivery, a founding principle of the NHS, but private firms would be paid by the government to provide care.

Wes Streeting, the Labour’s shadow health secretary, said: “The Conservatives are failing to make use of private sector capacity and patients are paying the price.

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“If Labour had been in office since January last year, more than 330,000 people would have received the treatment they desperately need. Instead, patients face record waiting times while the Tories dither and delay.”

He added: “No one should be waiting in pain while hospital beds that could be used lie empty. The next Labour government will use spare capacity in the private sector to get patients seen faster.”

The party claimed that 331,000 patients waiting for NHS care since January 2022 could have been treated already “if the Government had made full use of spare capacity in the private sector”.

The National: Wes Streeting is Labour's shadow health secretaryWes Streeting is Labour's shadow health secretary

A press release from the party went on: “Private providers claim they can treat 30 per cent more NHS patients than were being treated before the pandemic. But NHS figures reveal that, for more than a year, the number of patients treated using the private sector has been consistently below that.”

It added: “Labour has committed to using private sector capacity to bring down NHS waiting lists in the short-term, as part of its national mission to build an NHS fit for the future, that is there when people need it, by training the next generation of NHS staff and modernising the health service.”

The commitment to bring more private sector contracts into the NHS was criticised by the Scottish Greens, who said it was the “last thing” the health service needs.

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MSP Gillian Mackay said: "Labour is saying the quiet part out loud. The last thing the NHS in England needs is more private sector involvement. Far too much of it has already been sold-off and privatised by successive Labour and Tory governments.

"Unfortunately this is entirely consistent with the approach that the UK Labour leadership has taken. The answer is not a greater private sector influence, it is investment in frontline staff and services.

"With Scottish Greens in government we will always stand for a publicly owned NHS that is based on human need and not corporate profits."

Health is devolved, meaning Labour will not have power over the Scottish NHS even if they win power at Westminster at the next General Election.

Streeting is due to appear at the Edinburgh Fringe in conversation with Iain Dale on Monday, August 7. The National will be covering the event.