ANAS Sarwar was forced to defend Labour’s shadow health secretary Wes Streeting over an activist's concerns about NHS privatisation.

During a speech in Edinburgh on Wednesday, a 73-year-old Labour member confronted the Scottish party leader over plans to use the private sector to cut waiting times.

In his speech, which outlined measures to “save” the health service, Sarwar said his party will “never, ever” privatise the NHS.

But he also said Labour would not rule out using the capacity available in the private sector to drive down waiting lists.

Streeting has previously vowed to "go further" than Tony Blair in making use of the private sector in NHS care.

Wes Streeting vowed to 'go further' than Blair in using the private sector in the NHS

He wrote in The Telegraph that he wants the “NHS to form partnerships with the private sector that goes beyond hospitals”.

The National also revealed recently that the shadow health secretary has continued accepted tens of thousands of pounds from donors with links to private healthcare while advocating for the NHS to pay private firms for use of their resources.

The Labour activist, who said he has been forced to consider spending thousands for eye care and prostate operations, sparked applause among audience members when he interrupted Sarwar’s Q&A with journalists.

He told the Scottish Labour chief: “Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary in Keir Starmer’s cabinet, has repeatedly, time and time and time again, said a major plan for reforming the NHS is letting private health care into our NHS system.

“He has been unapologetic about that. He is unashamedly in favour of the privatisation of the NHS. I think it’s a disgrace.”

READ MORE: Wes Streeting challenged on attacks on SNP over Scottish NHS

But Sarwar replied: "The words used by Wes Streeting, and I’ll quote them directly – ‘I would die in a ditch before allowing the NHS to be privatised’.

“What he was speaking of is some of the innovations in terms of the nutrients and machines of the future. So much of those innovations and investments are being done in the private sector.

“Let’s not make it about throwing out left or right divides in the Labour Party, or about individual politicians.

“Let’s make it about fixing the NHS. That’s my mission – that’s the Labour Party mission.”

Anas Sarwar was confronted at the Edinburgh event (Image: PA)

Immediately before Sarwar left the stage, the Labour member replied: “But how can you invest in the NHS by handing over millions and billions in private care?”

Earlier, in response to journalists, Sarwar said his party will look to use additional money made from clamping down on non-domicled tax loopholes to incentivise staff working in the private health sector to commit to the NHS.

He said: “We’re not ruling out using capacity but our preference is to invest in creating the capacity in the NHS.”

In his speech, he also said: “A Labour government in the UK, and in Scotland, will never, ever privatise the NHS.”