27 Jan 2015

Burnham in spotlight for Labour’s 10-year NHS plan

If this winter has identified anything, it is that the health and social care system is not working together as well as it should. Indeed, some less kindly souls might say it’s barely working at all.


Without a doubt, if there had been better co-ordination or integration there would have been fewer elderly people stuck in hospital beds because they cannot be moved back into the community.

So today Labour set out their plan for how this should be dealt with. Health and social care will be combined under the control of health and wellbeing boards.

There will be a new tier of staff called homecare workers – 5,000 of them – who will help those who need to leave hospital or who have a terminal illness and who want to die at home.

Home safety visits will be made for people at risk of ending up in hospital and no more 15-minute care worker visits and no more zero-hour contracts.

Labour’s health policy: eight months to fill in the blanks

The idea is to stop the NHS and social care working is silos. It will be – Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, told us – a health and social care service, though it will not be known by the letters NHSCS.  Thank goodness.

There are few now who would dispute the need for better coordination. How it is integrated is an entirely different matter and there are a myriad of ideas from a myriad of think tanks and policy wonks.

But Labour says today that there needs to be an integrated budget rather than a pot of money for health and a separate pot for social care, which has recently suffered disproportionate cuts compared with the NHS.

Time to start talking about the NHS?

Labour has already pledged – and reiterated it today – an extra £2.5bn paid out of a mansion tax and a crackdown on unpaid taxes. They believe, too, that the savings from keeping people out of hospital and keeping them healthier would in itself generate savings.

Perhaps, though, an easier selling point for the public will be the other pledges:  a GP appointment within 48 hours, cancer tests within a week, and more nurses and GPs.

And there is the pledge that there will be no “top-down” reorganisation but they will repeal the health and social care act, which Mr Burnham says is filled with contradictions and which encourages privatisation.

Health is currently high up the agenda, with polls repeatedly showing that it is one of the most important issues for voters. And while elections are notoriously unpredictable, this – for the moment – puts Andy Burnham in the spotlight.

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