The Conservatives have mired our health service in crisis. Our task is to shift resources away from profit-seeking private operators and back to frontline care
For patients and staff, the crisis in the NHS is becoming more apparent with each passing day. Waiting times for cancer treatment, ambulances, GPs, A&E admissions and for almost all elective surgeries are lengthening, and targets are receding into the distance. The Tories have provoked the first ever all-out strike by junior doctors. Many hospital trusts are racking up debt. Civil servants have found plans for a seven-day NHS unfeasible. Jeremy Hunt has misled parliament and the British public.
The glaring mismatch between government rhetoric and reality stems from two things. The NHS is being underfunded, while resources are being siphoned off into the hands of private companies. The effect on the ground has been 50,000 vacancies in the NHS and an all-time low morale among key staff. By contrast, other parties are doing well financially. One third of NHS contracts awarded by NHS England are going to the private sector. The piecemeal breakup and privatisation of the NHS is under way.
What is happening to the NHS is nothing short of a catastrophe, and threatens to undermine its founding mission statement: to provide a universal health service, free at the point of delivery.
Labour’s task in government will be to rescue the NHS and to secure its future. As an immediate step we will provide the funding for the NHS and allow its budget to grow in line with the economy. The Conservative government is doing the opposite, hacking away at NHS spending as a proportion of GDP.
The NHS under Jeremy Corbyn will shift resources to frontline care and away from profit-seeking private operators. This means bearing down on the costs of the private finance initiative (PFI), which will otherwise be a colossal waste of more than £2bn a year for decades to come. We will closely examine the scope to shift to generic drugs and away from more expensive brands, looking to examples such as Denmark to make savings while ensuring NHS procurement continues to support world-leading drug development.
Staff shortages have left the NHS footing a scandalous agency staff bill, which rose to £3.6bn last year and created a culture of working unpaid to cover for vacant shifts. By filling vacancies we will take pressure off staff and save the NHS money. All of these savings can be ploughed back into frontline medical care.
Filling positions means being able to train enough nurses and doctors and attract them to the profession. This will involve reversing the Tories’ abolition of bursaries for student nurses and using a national education service to open the prospect of training to all, for free, throughout their lives.
When doctors and nurses arrive on the job, they need to be confident that they will have a good, secure position where they do not have to endure being overworked, underpaid and forced into strikes. We will end the pay freeze among the health professions and across the public sector and end the government’s war on the medical profession. We will prioritise the recruitment and retention of staff by improving their conditions. Otherwise, doctors, nurses and others will vote with their feet.
The recent leaked risk register has shown that the government’s seven-day NHS is unworkable without increased resources, as junior doctors always said. The 2012 Health and Social Care Act removed the secretary of state’s responsibility for the NHS, even while he threatens junior doctors and strong-arms NHS trusts. We will renationalise the NHS, preventing its breakup and reintroducing political accountability.
We will address the crisis in social care, which is deepening and is hugely costly to the NHS, by properly funding local authority budgets. Social care packages benefit patients and are less costly than hospital stays. We will raise the status of mental health sufferers and properly fund their care and treatment.
Some of the most glaring inequalities facing society are in relation to health. Women have borne the burden of Tory underfunding both as carers and as the overwhelming majority of NHS workers. The gaps in life expectancy between rich and poor, and black and white, are stark and widening. And alongside this lottery at birth there is a postcode lottery for care in Britain that must be addressed.
Some of these inequalities arise from social conditions. Poor housing, low educational attainment and low pay are the main determinants of ill-health. Addressing these relies on a growing economy, not more austerity. Jeremy Corbyn and Labour have set out a plan to build a million homes and create a million jobs through increased government investment and a proper living wage to cut poverty. We will make sure that no one and no community is left behind.
David Cameron used to say a strong NHS requires a strong economy, but he has delivered neither. Labour has the policies and the plan to deliver both.
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4 Comments

  1. simon watt says:

    And thre NHS Reinstatement Bill?

  2. ruap says:

    Why did SHA vote for Owen Smith as Leader? Dont you recognise a charlatan when you see one? Jeremy is the only justifiable choice and my faith in SHA is seriously undermined. The members voted for Jeremy. Why are you countermanding this?

    1. Hi Ruap, It isn’t clear that SHA members voted for Jeremy in the first round,unfortunately. Initially that seemed to be the case, by a small margin, however nobody can be sure either way as the process was hacked by someone in another European country. It was probably just outsiders mischief making, rather than anything to do with either Jeremy or Owen supporters in or out of the membership, as votes on both sides were implicated. In other words, nothing at all to do with the SHA, or either side of the leadership debate, just some random mischief maker thinking they would have some fun. It cost a lot of time and effort to put right. It turned out to be a very difficult process to try to find out which votes were valid ones – if not impossible – so it was decided to re-run in order to follow the members choice.Second time around a lot of care was taken not to allow hacking, and to make sure the voices of actual members were heard. The ballot again came very close, but the majority went with Smith. At least they were all members this time, though I do think there were issues – see my second paragraph.

      I understand what you are saying in that we don’t seem to have reflected what polls are saying is the majority view. This could be down to a number of factors. A few weeks later the result might have been different. It was a snapshot of its time. I think we could have run the ballot every week back then and had a different result, by a narrow majority. That is the issue when ballots run close like this one, and at the time there was a lot of spin against Corbyn from the media. To be totally even handed, I have heard some tales about Smith recently I know to be untrue. The SHA must reflect what members want, though, and this round tried hard not to influence either way, reportedly with some success. We must make sure that something like this unfortunate incident does not happen again or we could be accused of ballotting until the SHA gets some required result. I would not ever stand for that kind of approach, nor I believe would other members, even if it helped our own personal favourites. It could be argued that we need to find a better and more secure way to ballot in future. I fully agree with that, and hope it can be found. Suggestions welcome.

      Ruap, why not blog or post the reasons why Jeremy would make the better leader? It is a chance to change hearts and minds. Same goes for Smith supporters, it would be good to hear all sides of the debate. The SHA should be inclusive and work to respect each others’ viewpoints or we are in danger of tearing ourselves apart.

      On your last point, had I seen any sign of the members wishes being countermanded I would have been onto it like a shot, I promise you. You are right to bring this up for clarification, and please continue to do so. Members, and members only, must be able to steer the direction of travel with no undue influence from the top, and certainly no gerrymandering. I hope that clears things up a bit, but let me know if there is anything you are not sure of – that goes for everyone reading this.

      Simon, I spoke in Parliament to support the NHS Reinstatement Bill (though with another hat on). Alex Scott-Samuel was also present to support. Diane Abbott also has spoken in support of Margaret Greenwood. Alex and I heard Margaret speak recently, and she was on fire. Given the Governments opposition we are told the Bill will be unlikely to pass, however I believe we should get behind it and support it wholeheartedly. It is of unique importance as a symbol of what a Labour Government will broadly be aiming for if it comes to power, and a way of showing the clear blue water between the parties. I am speaking personally.

  3. Martin Rathfelder says:

    In the first ballot which was interfered with there were more votes than we have members.

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