(Bloomberg) -- The UK’s main opposition Labour Party said it would almost halve the current backlog of people waiting for treatment in the National Health Service during its first term in office, a latest promise to try to win over voters that also draws attention to a missed pledge made by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Labour would spend £1.3 billion ($1.7 billion) on a package of measures including doubling the number of scanners used to diagnose patients and making available an extra 40,000 appointments to tackle the issue, the party said in an e-mailed statement on Tuesday. The package would be funded through “clamping down on tax dodgers and closing non-dom tax loopholes,” it said.

“The first step of my Labour government will be to cut NHS waiting lists, clearing the Tory backlog,” Labour’s leader Keir Starmer said in the statement, ahead of a campaign event in the West Midlands on Wednesday where he will discuss the plans. “We will roll up our sleeves to work with NHS staff, not against them.”

The length of waiting lists in the NHS is a sensitive issue for the governing Conservatives given that cutting them was one of five key pledges made by Sunak last year. Though waiting lists have been falling in recent months, the number of patients waiting for treatment still remains higher than when Sunak made the pledge.

A key part of the problem for Sunak has been waves of strikes from junior and senior doctors — known as consultants — that have led to more than a million appointments being canceled, driving waiting lists up further.

Labour said its pledge is focused on clearing the current list of 3.2 million patients who’ve been waiting for more than 18 weeks for treatment. The total waiting list of patients stands at approximately 7.5 million, according to latest data. 

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Labour’s plans would also include “the biggest expansion of NHS staff in history” and using spare capacity in the private sector free of charge for patients, it said.

Labour’s pitch on the NHS comes with the election campaign in full swing ahead of the vote on July 4. The first opinion polls since campaigning begun suggest no clear change to the electoral picture so far, with Labour still enjoying double-digit leads of more than 20 points in some cases, suggesting Starmer is on course to be the next prime minister.

Sunak’s Tories have tried to seize the momentum in the early campaigning with eye-catching policy announcements such as introducing mandatory National Service and cutting tax for pensioners, part of a strategy to focus on its core, right-wing, older vote in a bid to narrow the gap with Labour. That appears to have had limited success so far — and a failure to shift opinion early on would put the Conservative campaign under significant pressure.

--With assistance from Andrew Atkinson.

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