Labour pledges to publish social care workforce plan

A Labour government would modernise the NHS and publish a workforce plan for social care, the shadow health secretary said today.

On the final day of the Labour Party conference, held in Liverpool this week, Wes Streeting promised to transform both health and care in England if the party wins the next general election.

He explained that Labour would “never abandon the founding principles of the NHS” as a publicly funded service that is free at the point of use.

“What nursing staff need to see is reform of services with greater emphasis on prevention, their pay and improved patient care”

Nicola Ranger

However, he warned that the NHS was “no longer the envy of the world” and therefore it needed to be reformed for the future.

Mr Streeting said: “I argue that our NHS must modernise or die, not as a threat but a choice.

“The crisis really is that existential.”

Mr Streeting argued that, currently, the NHS gets to people too late and there is too much focus on hospital-based care that “geared towards late diagnosis and treatment”.

As such, he said Labour’s reform agenda would move care “from hospital to community, analogue to digital [and] sickness to prevention”.

In his speech, Mr Streeting pointed to a plan unveiled earlier this week by Labour to cut waiting lists in England by paying nurses and their colleagues to provide additional out-of-hours appointments.

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The plan, backed by £1.1bn, would see NHS staff being paid to take up additional overtime shifts during evenings and weekends, so that more procedures can be carried out.

He also highlighted the party’s proposed ‘Fit for the Future Fund’, which has promised to give the NHS state-of-the-art equipment and new technology to also cut waiting times.

Mr Streeting said the fund would “double the number of scanners in the NHS, so patients are diagnosed earlier and treated faster”.

“If we combine the care of the NHS, with the ingenuity of our country’s leading scientific minds, the NHS could once again be the envy of the world,” he added.

Meanwhile, Mr Streeting also spotlighted social care in his speech, arguing that there was “no solution to the crisis in the NHS that doesn’t include a plan for social care”.

He promised that a Labour government would “grip the immediate crisis in social care” by launching a workforce plan to address recruitment and retention in the sector.

As part of this, he said the party would come up with the first-ever fair pay agreement for care professionals.

The workforce plan would be one of the first steps in Labour’s vision for a National Care Service, which the party has promised to work towards if it wins the next general election.

It comes as, earlier this year, Mr Streeting commissioned a report into what a National Care Service could look like in England, which included recommendations for an incoming government and a timeline of reform for the adult social care sector.

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Mr Streeting argued that the choice at the next general election was “clear”.

He said: “We can see the future with the Tories unfolding before our eyes.

“A two-tier health service, where those who can afford it go private and those who can’t are left behind.”

He added: “Labour has a different vision for our future.”

Responding to the speech, the Royal College of Nursing’s chief nurse, Professor Nicola Ranger, said: “If our NHS is to be the envy of the world again, with quality social care to match, they each need both investment and reform.”

While she welcomed Labour’s proposals, she warned that any future government would not be able to get record waiting lists down when the NHS was “short of tens of thousands of nursing staff”.

She said: “What nursing staff need to see is reform of services with greater emphasis on prevention, their pay and improved patient care.

“While the focus on reform and prevention is long overdue, it is not a cheap or quick solution.

“The NHS could once again be the envy of the world”

Wes Streeting

“This can only happen by undoing a decade of cuts to local public health budgets that have left nurses delivering crucial services on a shoestring budget.”

Meanwhile, Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said patients had suffered under the current government’s “mismanagement” of the NHS.

She said: “Services are in a perilous state and health workers are exhausted.

“Record staff shortages are fueling ever-growing waiting lists.

“Labour plans to boost the workforce and provide extra equipment would kickstart the recovery process.”

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Also responding, the chief executive of the NHS Confederation, Matthew Taylor, said the aspirations laid out in the speech were “admirable” and there were many parts that health leaders were in agreement with.

He said: “Any future government must ensure the NHS has what it needs, and at the moment it is crying out for capital investment to repair its crumbling estate, so leaders will argue that investment is of equal importance to reform.

“More detail is needed on what these reforms might look like in practice, and any incoming government should resist wholesale restructuring, but the general direction outlined by Labour is one that the health service would be on board with.”

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