Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer pledged to prioritise prevention, local healthcare and patient choice in his speech at the Progressive Britain Conference today.

He outlined goals of accessibility and tackling health inequalities, as well as focusing on major disease areas such as cardiovascular disease, although the speech contained few details about how the plan would be achieved.

While pledging to improve access to GP appointments, bring back the family doctor and tackle hospital waiting and discharge lists, he made no mention of community pharmacy.

Prevention comes first

Sir Keir described his ‘prize’ as ‘an NHS where prevention comes first’.

‘We must move from a mind-set that views health as all about sickness to one where we put prevention first – right across society,’ he said.

The Labour leader committed to improving healthy life expectancy for all and halving the inequality gap between different regions of England.

And he said that improving health was about more than just investing in the NHS, and said that wider policies, such as employment, housing, or water regulation, should all be seen as health policies.

Reducing cardiovascular disease, cancer and suicide

Labour would ‘zone-in’ on what Sir Keir said were the country’s three ‘biggest killers’: cardiovascular diseases, cancer and suicide.

If elected to government, he pledged to cut the number of heart attacks and strokes by a quarter within a decade, and make sure that 75% of all cancer is diagnosed at stage one or two.

He also committed to ‘revolutionise’ mental health treatment with 8,500 new mental health professionals, specialist access in schools and guaranteed treatment within four weeks for those that need it.


Sir Keir said that scientific and technological advances, such as personalised medicines and new vaccines, could herald a ‘revolution that could transform healthcare for the better’.

He promised a ‘move from an analogue to a digital NHS’ and said that making the most of the NHS app and other innovations could mean fully digital patient records, managing bookings and referrals and giving patients control of their data.

Access to healthcare

The Labour leader said that he was aiming for an NHS ‘where care is closer to home’.

Instead of patients being ‘stuck on the call at 8am’, he promised ‘a primary care system that offers different choices for different needs’.

And instead of ‘long waits at A&E’, he said that Labour would deliver ‘hospitals that carry a lighter load, because more care is in the community’.

He spoke about bringing services such as GPs and social care together, and suggested options such as diagnostic screenings in ‘supermarkets, libraries, leisure centres, communities’.

A recent report by the Company Chemists’ Association suggested that with adequate investment, community pharmacy could become a ‘one-stop-shop’ for initial cardiovascular care where appropriate and free up much-needed capacity in GP access.

And it estimated that by 2026, community pharmacy could deliver around 15m blood pressure checks, identifying over 650,000 patients with high blood pressure and preventing up to 5,800 heart attacks and 8,800 strokes.