Labour promised a long-term workforce plan for the NHS that “gives staff the support they need to do the best for their patients”, in its official election manifesto launched on Tuesday.
The party promised to “invest in our health and care workforce” in order “to guarantee the best possible services for patients, Labour will”.
“A Labour government will step in with a long-term workforce plan”
As well as headline pledges including scrapping the NHS pay rise cap, re-introducing student nurse bursaries, enshrining safe staffing in law, and guaranteeing the rights of EU staff, the document includes other measures to support and protect NHS workers.
These includes a promise to support whistleblowers “to make sure health staff are able to speak up in support of the best possible standards for patients”.
Labour would also make it an aggravated criminal offence to attack NHS staff. Meanwhile, the document confirms another earlier pledge that Labour would fund free parking for NHS staff, patients and visitors by increasing tax on private medical insurance premiums.
Many of the party’s NHS election commitments had already been outlined in recent weeks or revealed in a leaked version of the manifesto. However, more detail was published today.
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Overall, the final version of the manifesto outlined a raft of measures on health, mental health, public health and social care, including plans to boost investment in the health service.
As well as committing to more than £30bn extra funding for the NHS over the next parliament, Labour said it would halt and review the 44 regional sustainability and transformation plans – seen by many as vehicle for cutting services.
The manifesto stated that a Labour government would “ask local people to participate in the re-drawing of plans with a focus on patient need rather than available finances”.
It would also create a new “quality, safety and excellence regulator”, called NHS Excellence.
“We will build capacity to move quickly towards a joined-up service”
Everyone with a long-term condition would get a specialised care plan and training on how to manage their symptoms if Labour wins the election on 8 June, according to the document, which also promised a new model of joined-up community care.
“We will work towards a new model of community care that takes into account not only primary care but also social care and mental health,” said the manifesto – titled For the Many, Not the Few.
When it came to public health, Labour said it would boost the number of health visitors and school nurses – numbers of which have begun to significantly fall recently.
It would set a new government ambition for UK children to be “the healthiest in the world”, backed by a new Index of Child Health to assess progress on obesity, dental health, under-fives and mental health and a £250m Children’s Health Fund.
The manifesto promised that a new childhood obesity strategy would be published within the first 100 days of a Labour government coming to power after the election.
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In order to address an ongoing crisis in social care, Labour would start laying plans for a “National Care Service” for England that would operate “alongside” the NHS, with the expectation of health and social care working much more closely together.
“The National Care Service will be built alongside the NHS with a shared requirement for single commissioning, partnership arrangements, pooled budgets and joint working arrangements,” said the manifesto.
“We will build capacity to move quickly towards a joined-up service that will signpost users to all the appropriate services at the gateway through which they arrive,” it added.
In addition, Labour said it would increase social care budgets by an extra £8bn over the lifetime of the next parliament.
This, it said, would help ensure all areas lived up to the principles of the Ethical Care Charter – already adopted in 28 council areas – and “ending 15-minute care visits and providing care workers with paid travel time and an option to choose regular hours”.
“We will work towards a new model of community care”
Longer-term, Labour estimated that the new service would require an extra £3bn of public funding every year. On how it all would be funded, the party noted options including wealth taxes, employer contributions or a new social care levy.
Meanwhile, the party promised to ring-fence mental health budgets “and ensure funding reaches the frontline”, pledging that it would reverse the “damage” caused by funding cuts and a big drop in the number of mental health nurses.
Key pledges included ending “the scandal of children being treated on adult mental health wards” and stopping out-of-area placements for mentally ill people who acute care.
Under NHS England’s existing Five Year Forward View for Mental Health, out-of-area placements should be all but eliminated by 2020-21.
However, the Labour goal is to do this sooner by putting a stop to placing people far from home by 2019.
“Patients who received their therapy of choice have better outcomes”
The party said it would ensure a greater proportion of mental health budgets were spent on services for children and young people, and ensure all secondary school pupils had access to a counselling service.
A Labour government would also look into broadening the range of psychological therapies available on the NHS, it said.
“Choice is important in a modern NHS and patients who received their therapy of choice have better outcomes,” stated the manifesto.
“Labour will, therefore, ask the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence to evaluate the potential for increasing the range of evidence-based psychological therapies on offer,” it added.
Other key pledges on the NHS include:
- Boost capital funding for the NHS to ensure buildings and equipment are “fit for the 21st Century”
- Introduce a new Office for Budget Responsibility for Health to oversee health spending
- Increase funding to GP services to boost patient access
- Review pharmacy provision to ensure all patients – especially those in remote or deprived communities – can access services
- End “postcode lotteries” for medication and insist on value-for-money agreements with pharmaceutical companies
- In order to help reduce HIV infection, ensure NHS England completes its trial of PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) “as quickly as possible” and fully roll out the treatment to high-risk groups
- Action to reduce infant deaths and ensure all families who lose a baby get appropriate bereavement support
- Implement a strategy for children of alcoholics based on expert recommendations
- Implement a Tobacco Control Plan focussing on issues of mental health and young smokers
- Implement the levy of on the soft drinks industry dubbed the “sugar tax”.
- Repeal the Health and Social Care Act to make the NHS the “preferred provider” of NHS-funded care