Wes Streeting named secretary for health and social care

The new health secretary has been named as Wes Streeting, who has served as shadow health secretary since November of 2021, and who has been consistently vocal on the need for the modernisation of the NHS. Streeting has also held onto his seat in Ilford North, winning by a narrow margin against a strong independent candidate.

Of note is Streeting’s personal battle with kidney cancer, which he overcame in 2021, and which he has highlighted as something outlining him as a great candidate for the health secretary role. He has been outspoken on health inequalities and the need to use capacity from private providers to support NHS capacity.

As was the case with his predecessors, Streeting will face pressing challenges in the NHS, including tackling the historic funding gap, health inequalities, growing demand, and workforce challenges.

The Labour party’s manifesto placed cutting NHS waiting times one of six central commitments, with the party vowing to deliver “40,000 more appointments each week”, paid for by “cracking down on tax avoidance and non-dom loopholes”.

To achieve this, the party shared plans to introduce incentives for NHS staff to work additional hours, to pool resources across neighbouring hospitals to introduce shared waiting lists, and to utilise “spare capacity in the independent sector” to diagnose and treat patients more quickly.

In terms of health tech, Labour hopes to oversee a move away from “late diagnosis and treatment”, to a model which sees more services delivered in the community, harnessing the power of technologies such as AI to “transform the speed and accuracy of diagnostic services”, and ensuring that prevention is the focus of the entire health system.

Finally, Labour’s manifesto pledged to modernise the NHS, including plans to introduce a new “Fit For the Future” fund, to deliver on the New Hospitals Programme, to develop an NHS innovation and adoption strategy, to deliver a modern appointment booking system to support primary care, and to transform the NHS App to allow patients more control over their health, appointments, medications, and needs.

The general election and the future of health

Earlier today, we took a closer look at Labour’s wider manifesto and its implications for the future of health, including an ambition to “rebuild our country”, a vision of the NHS as “once again at the cutting edge of healthcare”, and a “revolution taking place in data and life sciences”.

And last month, we explored each of the main parties’ pledges for digital and tech in health and social care, finding a varied approach to taking on some of the greatest challenges facing the NHS, and a similarly varied commitment to using tech to tackle them.