The Labour Party could introduce plans to write off the student debts of doctors and nurses if they win power at the next general election, a senior shadow minister has suggested.
Wes Streeting, the Shadow Health Secretary, made comments about the plans in a Q&A session at a meeting of the Hornsey and Wood Green Labour Party in London.
About 1/8 of trainee nurses, radiographers, and physiotherapists did not even finish their training
He was responding to a question asking what incentives could be provided to retain staff in the NHS. In recent years, the service has faced what the Nuffield Trust, a health think tank, has described as a “dropout crisis” among nurses and frontline staff.
A recent report by the group, published in September this year, found that close to 1/5 of nurses and physiotherapists left the NHS within two years of starting work. About 1/8 of trainee nurses, radiographers, and physiotherapists did not even finish their training.
I don’t want people, especially staff who are coming out on strike for the first time … to think that we think that the answer is some new penalties [on staff]
Wes Streeting, Shadow Health Secretary
Mr Streeting, responding to the suggestion of incentives, ruled out the idea of stricter measures, such as compelling new recruits to work a minimum number of years in the NHS.
In a statement reported by the Guardian, he said: “I don’t want people, especially staff who are coming out on strike for the first time … to think that we think that the answer is some new penalties [on staff]. That’s the worst thing we could do.”
He left open, however, the idea of a more reward-based system, adding: “I think we should look at those incentives.”
This aligns with the Nuffield Trust’s report, which recommended progressively forgiving student loan debts for some medical professionals over a 10-year period.
That report was rejected by government officials, who insisted enough support was already in place.
Loan forgiveness is the latest NHS reform floated by Labour as it approaches next year’s general election.
The party has also recently called for a greater integration of AI into cancer care, with Shadow Science Secretary, Peter Kyle, saying he believed such improvements would have saved his mother from dying of lung cancer.
More recently, Streeting has attracted controversy after saying that, if Labour were to enter government, he would “hold the door wide open” to the private sector, in comments on a recent episode of The i Podcast.