Wes Streeting says NHS uses the winter crisis as an excuse to ask for more money.

Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA

  The shadow health secretary, Wes Streeting, has criticized the NHS, accusing it of consistently using winter crises and challenges as a pretext to seek additional funding. Speaking during a visit to Singapore, Streeting urged the health service to acknowledge financial constraints, emphasizing the need to reassess how it delivers care to ensure better value for taxpayers.

"Money is tight," Streeting stated, adding that both NHS staff and patients observe instances of waste and inefficiency. He expressed dissatisfaction with the NHS repeatedly resorting to seeking more funds every winter crisis and facing challenges, stating, "I don't think it's good enough."

Additionally, he emphasized, "The NHS needs to come to terms with the reality that finances are constrained. It must adapt to tighter budgets, reconsider its spending priorities, and rethink the delivery of care to achieve improved outcomes for patients and better value for taxpayers' money. Currently, we seem to be stuck with the worst of both worlds – subpar outcomes coupled with inefficient use of taxpayers' money."

Expressing his approach, the MP for Ilford North stated, "I'm open to granting more freedom for innovation and creativity, but it comes with a condition – they need to deliver results. If I assume the role of the health and social care secretary, people can expect a form of tough love in ensuring accountability."

Having previously criticized the NHS, claiming it is not the "envy of the world," and highlighting a decline in care due to years of underinvestment, the MP is advocating for a shift towards more effective and responsive healthcare.

As part of Labour's commitments, they plan to double the number of CT and MRI scanners in hospitals. Furthermore, they aim to address NHS waiting lists in England by financing an additional 2 million hospital appointments annually.

Streeting drew comparisons between the NHS and Singapore's health service, expressing a desire to emulate Singapore's utilization of technology, data, and population-level health interventions to safeguard the UK's health system.

Highlighting the contrast, he remarked, "What a contrast to back home, where I think patients in hospital don't really know what's going on. I definitely think there is an institutional and structural problem in the way the NHS works. It claims to be patient-centered, but it really isn't."

One aspect of the Singaporean health system that Streeting wishes to reintroduce in the UK is the norm of patients having a single family doctor, a practice he believes has been eroded by the Conservative government.

Streeting pointed out the irony, stating, "In Singapore, the government is working towards fostering a family-doctor relationship. Conversely, in the UK, our Conservative government has steered us away from it due to a shortage of GPs, and the existing GPs are entangled in burdensome red tape, leading to their dissatisfaction."

Highlighting a priority, Streeting mentioned that one of the initial pieces of legislation he would propose, if in government, is aimed at reforming the Mental Health Act. The goal is to address the disproportionate number of Black individuals who are sectioned under the current provisions.