SCOTTISH Labour’s by-election candidate in Rutherglen and Hamilton West has been challenged to “reject NHS privatisation” after being pictured alongside shadow health secretary Wes Streeting.

Streeting has repeatedly made clear that, if Labour win the next UK General Election, they would use private companies to tackle NHS waiting lists

In a press release published on Friday, Labour said it 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”.

It comes after the UK Government announced 8 new private sector run diagnostic centres in the NHS in England as well as a relaxation of the rules governing the awarding of NHS contracts to private companies.

However, Labour claim that the Conservatives have not done enough to increase involvement of the private sector in the NHS – stating that its spare capacity could have allowed for the treatment of 331,000 more NHS patients since January 2022.

Now, the party’s candidate in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election, Michael Shanks, has been pressed by an SNP MP on whether he backs Labour’s embrace of increased privatisation of the NHS.

The SNP’s health spokesperson at Westminster, Martyn Day, said: "The damaging competition between the Tories and pro-Brexit Labour Party to lurch further to the right, and impose creeping privatisation of the NHS, has set alarm bells ringing in Scotland.

"Like the SNP, the overwhelming majority of people in Scotland are committed to the founding principles of the NHS - and want to see more funding from the UK government, instead of ever increasing private sector involvement.

"I would challenge Michael Shanks to reject this toxic race to the bottom on public services, which should be in public, not profit-driven private sector hands. He must distance himself from yet another damaging Tory-Labour Party policy.

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"Does Mr Shanks agree that the UK government should increase NHS funding to the higher levels seen under the SNP in Scotland? And will he reject Sir Keir Starmer's policy of real-terms cuts to NHS pay, and instead back SNP calls for a UK government-funded real-terms increase?

"People in Rutherglen and Hamilton West want real change - not another Tory Blairite clone. At the upcoming by-election, SNP candidate Katy Loudon is the only candidate offering real change with independence and real support for Scotland's NHS."

The Socialist Health Organisation, which is affiliated with the Labour Party, has also criticised Streeting for his rejection of a real-terms pay increase for NHS staff, stating that it is “shameful” he did not stand shoulder to shoulder with health unions.

Scottish Labour have been contacted for comment.