Labour will deliver 36,000 extra staff for the NHS including 20,000 extra nurses if it wins next year’s general election Ed Miliband pledged today.
Speaking at the party conference in Manchester this afternoon Mr Miliband unveiled what he called a Time to Care Fund worth £2.5bn to pay for the extra nurses as well as 8,000 more GPs, 5,000 more healthcare assistants and 3,000 more midwives.
“It is time to care about the NHS so that doctors, nurses, care workers, midwives are able to spend proper time with us – and not to be rushed off their feet”
He said Labour would fund the increases through a £1bn clampdown on tax avoidance, a £1.4bn mansion tax on homes worth more than £2m and a levy on tobacco companies worth £150m a year.
But he pulled back from writing a blank cheque for the service, telling delegates: “We are going to have to transform the way the NHS works in the year ahead.”
He promised an integrated service between health and social care telling delegates: “The NHS is currently creaking. One in four people wait a week or more for a GP appointment.
“We have seen the scandal of care visits restricted to just 15 minutes for the elderly. It is time to care about the NHS so that doctors, nurses, care workers, midwives are able to spend proper time with us – and not to be rushed off their feet.”
He added: “The NHS is sliding backwards under this government. They are privatising and fragmenting it. Just think what it would be like after five more years of this government. It is not safe in their hands.
“We built the NHS, we saved the NHS, we will repeal the Health and Social Care Act, and we will transform the NHS for the future.
“And we won’t borrow a penny to do it. And we won’t do it by raising taxes on everyday working people,” said Mr Miliband
“We will raise £1bn from tax avoidance, including by closing the tax loop-holes for the hedge funds,” he said.
“We will use the proceeds from a tax on houses worth over £2m. And we will raise revenue from the tobacco companies, who make soaring profits on the back of ill health.
“Doing it together, means everyone playing their part to help fund our NHS. The stakes are incredibly high in this election. But nowhere more than on the NHS.
The Labour leaders promise of more staff comes after months of intense registered nurse recruitment by the NHS following the Francis Report into failures at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust.
Since August last year, the number of full time equivalent registered nurses in the service has increased by more than 8,700.
“These proposals are not only very welcome, but investing in nursing is absolutely necessary, whoever wins the next election”
In the acute setting, where recruitment has been focused, the number of nurses has risen from 169,000 nurses in August 2013 to a high of 175,000 in May this year.
Responding to the Labour leader’s pledge, Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “A long term plan to keep the nurses we have and to recruit more for the coming demand is very welcome, and nurses on the front line will be relieved to know that their concerns have been heeded.
“These proposals are not only very welcome, but investing in nursing is absolutely necessary, whoever wins the next election,” he said.
“We need to celebrate the difference nurses can make if they are properly resourced across the board, whether they are staffing an A&E unit, delivering public health messages, helping a patient to manage their diabetes or providing long term care at home,” said Dr Carter.
He added: “The challenge is significant, but we have the expertise within the nursing profession to make the NHS we want to see in the future a reality.
“Today’s announcement is a very important signal that this has been recognised at a political level and we look forward to working with the Labour Party to further develop the way forward.”
“An investment in midwives not only improves outcomes but also has the potential to lead to reductions in expenditure”
Commenting on the announcement, Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said: “This is a welcome announcement and one that we are delighted to hear.
“This shows that Ed Miliband and his team have listened to our concerns and to the evidence, and understand the value of midwives and the maternity team,” she said.
“It shows Ed Milliband understands the crucial role midwives play in ensuring the highest quality of care is available to women, their babies and indeed the whole family.
“An investment in midwives not only improves outcomes but also has the potential to lead to reductions in expenditure,” she added. “We would welcome a similar commitment from other parties to the care of mothers and babies.”