Labour shadow health secretary Wes Streeting doubles down on claim doctors' union is 'obstacle' to reform in NHS

12 December 2022, 19:48 | Updated: 12 December 2022, 19:51

Wes Streeting has doubled down on his criticism of the doctors' union
Wes Streeting has doubled down on his criticism of the doctors' union. Picture: LBC/Getty

By Emma Soteriou

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting has doubled down on his claims that the British Medical Association (BMA) is an "obstacle" to reform in the NHS.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Speaking on LBC's Tonight with Andrew Marr, Mr Streeting said the doctors' union always pushed back "really strongly" whenever he mentioned reform for the health service.

"I understand the pressure that GPs are under and I’m certainly not going to start saying this is all the fault of these GPs when they’re working in a system that has been under-resourced," the shadow health secretary said.

"I'm cross with the BMA because what I've said is where we are investing in the NHS after the election – if there is a Labour government – as we bring new staff in we've got to expect higher standards for patients and we’ve got to change the way we work.

'Dividing line between reasonable unions and unreasonable government'

"I can’t believe in the 21st century that we have a system for booking appointments where patients have to wait on the phone at 8 o’clock in the morning in order to get an appointment.

"I think this is a ludicrous way to operate.

Join shadow secretary Wes Streeting for a call-in on Shelagh Fogarty's show tomorrow

Doctors striking earlier this year
Doctors striking earlier this year. Picture: Getty

"But whenever I've said things about reform the BMA push back really strongly.

"I can understand the defensive element to an extent but I'm afraid the BMA historically has been an obstacle to any conversation about reform.

Doctor who works in the NHS tells LBC 'we cannot retain our doctors and nurses'

"I'm willing to work constructively with the BMA but it’s got to be a bit of give and take.

"Every time I say something about reform the BMA condemns Labour and that’s not a serious way to engage."

Read more: Labour MP Sam Tarry accuses the shadow health secretary of 'waging war' on NHS staff

Read more: NHS strike dates and times: Why nurses and ambulances are striking this December

It comes after Sam Tarry, the Labour MP for Ilford South, told LBC's Ben Kentish on Monday that he was "dismayed" by the shadow health secretary's criticism of the BMA and the NHS.

Mr. Tarry, the MP who was sacked from the front bench after giving an TV interview on the RMT picket line, said that he was “dismayed” by comments Mr Streeting made to the Sunday Times yesterday.

Mr Tarry told LBC that his former shadow cabinet colleague was taking “completely the wrong approach” when the NHS is in “severe crisis” and “staff morale is at an all time low”.

However, acting Chair of the England GP Committee for the BMA Dr Kieran Sharrock said he believed the union and Mr Streeting were on the same page.

Wes Streeting has criticised the doctors' union for 'blocking reform' of the GP system
Wes Streeting has criticised the doctors' union for 'blocking reform' of the GP system. Picture: Getty

Asked by Andrew on Monday if it was "a bit embarrassing" that the BMA and Mr Streeting were having "a punch-up" over GP hours, Dr Sharrock played down the dispute.

He said: "Actually, I don't think there's been a punch-up, there's been misreporting of words used by both sides. And actually I think we're in agreement that the NHS has been put under too much strain by a government that hasn't invested in it over a number of years.

"And we agree with Mr Streeting and his party that we need significant investment in the workforce. We need investment in the workforce for the future, but - more to the point - we need investment in the workforce now."