Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Labour pledge to protect bursaries and EU staff, but monitor STPs and PFIs


Shadow health secretary Diane Abbott has repeated a pledge to restore bursaries for student nurses and highlighted the threat to health visitor numbers from council cuts.

She also called for government reassurances about the rights of NHS workers from other European Union countries to remain in the UK following a “Brexit”.

“I want to make it clear that Labour will restore the bursary”

Diane Abbott

The local sustainability plans recently drawn up by NHS organisations across England would also be scrutinised and, where necessary, opposed, she said told the Labour Party conference yesterday.

Referring to the government’s seven-day NHS policy, Ms Abbott suggested the dispute with junior doctors was symptomatic of a “collapse in morale among NHS workers generally”.

She claimed the Conservative government had “ill repaid the dedication of NHS workers”, highlighting her own mother’s career as a nurse.

“My mother came to this country from Jamaica as a pupil nurse,” said Ms Abbott. “She worked in the NHS until she retired… and she always gave above and beyond.

“The NHS gave her dignity and a vocation, and she gave the NHS her absolute commitment and all her working life,” said the Labour health spokeswoman in her keynote speech.

She called on delegates to “think of women like my mother” when policy commentators described immigrants as a drain on public services.

On a related topic, she described the Leave campaign’s claim that Brexit would mean £350m pounds a week more for the NHS “as a lie”.

She said that over the coming months, Labour would be “battling to protect the interests of working people in the Brexit negotiations”.

“We need to remember the 55,000 EU workers in the NHS and the 80,000 EU workers in social care,” she said.

“Our health and social care system depends on these workers,” she said. “We need to be clear that an end to freedom of movement could be disaster for the NHS and social care, and we need to demand assurances from government about the EU workers already here.”

“We need to demand assurances about the EU workers already here”

Diane Abbott

In addition, Ms Abbott described the planned withdrawal of bursaries for student nurses as “another important issue”, reiterating some of the concerns she raised in a letter to Nursing Times earler this year.

“Many students will not be able to afford to study without the bursary and others will be frightened of debt,” she said. “I want to make it clear that Labour will restore the bursary.”

Ms Abbott – who briefly served as a shadow public health minister under Ed Miliband – also highlighted that it was currently “health visitor week”.

“They do a vital job of work with mothers and families but they are threatened by Tory cuts to public health,” she told delegates at the conference in Liverpool.

In addition, Ms Abbott noted her suspicion about local sustainability and transformation plans (STPs), which have been drawn up over the past year at the request of NHS England.

The plans, intended to show how local health economies will evolve in order to both improve services while at the same time save money, are due to be implemented from this autumn.

“Some local plans may be a good idea in principle but, increasingly, STPs seem like a vehicle to drive through cuts and closures,” said Ms Abbott.

“I have already led a debate on these STPs in parliament and, where they are purely about cuts, Labour will fight them,” she stated.

Ms Abbott went on to add that Labour was “committed to halting and reversing the tide of privatisation and marketization” in the NHS.

She said a future Labour government would repeal the Health and Social Care Act as the “first step towards undoing the damaging and wasteful marketisation that has been inflicted over many years”.

She also said that the party would “not sign another” private finance initiative, if it was returned to power, and would set up a monitoring unit to support NHS trusts in holding contractors to account.

Labour Party

Abbott warns about loss of bursaries and Brexit

Diane Abbott addresses the 2016 Labour Party conference

Ms Abbott said PFI – which was introduced under the last Labour administration largely to finance rapid hospital building – was a “huge burden” that was costing the NHS a total of £1.8bn a year.

In addition, she warned of a “gathering storm” facing social care, resulting from cuts in funding for local government.

“This is adding to the pressures on the NHS,” she said. “Overstretched accident and emergency departments have too many elderly people coming in because they cannot access social care.

“And patients who are ready to go home cannot be discharged because there is no social care package,” she added. “Elderly people are bearing the brunt of cuts to social care.”

Ms Abbott, MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, finished by pledging investment in mental health services.

“My mother was a mental health nurse,” she said. “I saw through the prism of her working life that mental health has long been the Cinderella of the NHS.

“The delays in accessing timely mental health treatment around the country are unacceptable,” she said. “We want an end to shame and an end to the tacit acceptance that the mentally ill are somehow second-class citizens in our healthcare system.”


Readers' comments (5)

  • Phil Dup

    Who cares what comes from the mouth of Abbott - the Champagne Socialist who sent her kids to private school despite wanting to expand the state school system.
    The same woman who wrote in the Hackney Gazette in 1996 that she objected to the amount of "blonde, blue-eyed Finnish girls" who had "never met a black person before" working as nurses at her local hospital "in multicultural Hackney".
    The same woman who said that "West Indian mums will go to the wall for their children"
    She is a vile self seeking Careerist Politician / Self Publicist. She would be better keeping away from Nursing issues as she will bring the already crumbling system right down

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Absolutely right couldnt have put it better myself.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Labour started the demise of the NHS with PFI which led to the current situation of lack of funds for patient care but plenty of funds for "jobs for the boys" who have no clinical background but have "experience" of driving through "efficiency" savings in the form of demotions for experienced nurses and exploiting Band 5 and Band 2 ( who by the way are mainly comprise of "immigrant nurses" on the front line with 12 and half hour shifts caring for increasingly entitled and therefore demanding public who treat these nurses like "hotel staff" and is expected to take their verbal abuse with a smile...

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Well said Phil Dup. This is Diane Abbot who recently called over 50% of the people that recently voted racist!! Not that some of them are racist but that all of them are!!
    The Tories need an effective opposition to keep them in check, instead they have the insane clown posse that is Labour

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Unlike Ms Abbott's mother, in the recent times, fully-trained staff have been recruited from, usually, previously colonised areas; or other countries who do not need to lose this resource. What Labour defend, then, is the routine use of a a vital resource from formally occupied parts of the world. In effect, Labour are now the voice of Empire. You couldn't make it up! That, there, sums up the uselessness of Labour and their pathway to demise due to their self-inflicted wounds. Their failure to grasp the implications of devolution, and what that would means when the regions of England devolve is breathtaking. Labour use nationalised workers to manipulate for their cause - unfortunately, it is harder to impress nurses than manual workers of a previous generation because healthcare provision has a different complexity.

    This is a women who thinks we need open borders with nearly 30-countries, for otherwise the NHS would collapse. Beside the fact that WE shouldn't treat citizens of other countries as vital for OUR industries, when their own countries have needs that are often greater. Even the NHS can recruit more sensible than by needing access to 30-counties, when most of the citizens in any country won't be registered healthcare professionals.

    Anyone who thinks their own country cannot run smoothly without taking people from another country is quite worrying. A temporary measure during a crisis is not the same as incorporating that into normal procedure. The war front and day-to-day nursing ought not evoke the same response to staffing.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.