The shadow health secretary has promised to repeal the Health and Social Care Act 2012 before the summer because he claims it has put the “wrong values” at the centre of the NHS.
Andy Burnham said that if Labour won the election he would “inherit a demoralised and shattered service”, and he wanted to “give people hope that things can be better than they are at the moment… and that there is a better future for the NHS”.
In order to do this, he said he would “start” by repealing the 2012 legislation and pledged a commitment to integration between health and social care.
“I’ll start by repealing the Health and Social Care Act 2012 before the summer recess,” he said. “Why? Because it puts the wrong values at the heart of the NHS – competition before compassion and collaboration.
“It’s time to call time on the market experiment in the NHS. I am clear that it’s not the answer to 21st century health and care. It delivers fragmentation when the future demands the opposite, integration of care,” said Mr Burnham.
He said the Labour party would legislate for a single budget for health and social care, rather than continuing with the separate funding streams through the NHS and local government.
“I remain committed to national pay terms and conditions in the NHS and to Agenda for Change”
He claimed repealing parts of the act would not amount to reorganising the system and he would instead task health and wellbeing boards and clinical commissioning groups to focus on integration. Focussing on “whole person” care would be a priority for the future, he added.
The Labour health spokesman was speaking at an election hustings debate, hosted last month by the Royal College of Nursing at its headquarters in London.
Mr Burnham re-iterated his party’s commitment to recruiting 20,000 more nurses, 3,000 more midwives and 5,000 more care workers by 2020.
He said that if he were to become health secretary in May he would “immediately increase training commissions for this September”.
New entry routes into the nursing profession should also be created for care workers, he said.
Mr Burnham referred to the recent long-running government negotiations on NHS staff pay, saying the decision to refuse a blanket 1% pay rise for all was a “kick in the teeth” for a “demoralised” workforce.
When asked about whether he would commit to providing NHS pay rises in line with inflation in the future, Mr Burnham said the “crucial” thing would be to “re establish” the independent pay review body.
“I would do that for 2016-17,” he said. “I would make a clear commitment in doing so that I remain committed to national pay terms and conditions in the NHS and to Agenda for Change.”
“It’s time to call time on the market experiment in the NHS”
Meanwhile, he said he was committed to not attacking unsocial hours payments for nurses.
To address concerns around support for staff to speak out, the shadow health secretary said he would bring in an independent staff champion to help with whistleblowing and other workplace issues.
When asked about whether Labour was committed to plugging the estimated £8bn NHS funding gap by 2020, Mr Burnham said Labour would provide £2.5bn, which could then be added to the estimated £4bn savings made if the health and social care system were fully integrated.
The RCN’s election hustings event was also attended by Liberal Democrat care minister Norman Lamb and Conservative health minister Dr Dan Poulter.
The three politicians debated with each other, facing a series of questions on nursing and NHS policy from the audience and the event’s chair, RCN head of campaigns and external affairs Jane Hughes.