A care worker received a standing ovation at the Labour Party conference this week as she made an impassioned plea for more time to care for her patients.
A clearly emotional Emma Clifford wore her uniform as she addressed the conference in Brighton. She told delegates: “I need more time to care.”
The care worker, from the party’s Cheltenham branch, said she was often unable to help her patients go to the toilet, because she had to rush to her next appointment.
“It’s a horrible decision to have to make but I have to make it every day,” she said. “Unless our workforce grows – with our ageing population – it will happen more often.”
Ms Clifford’s warning came during a health debate in which delegates backed plans by shadow health secretary Andy Burnham to integrate health and social care, if Labour won the next election in 2015.
In his speech to the conference, Mr Burnham was scathing about what he described as the “malnourished, minimum-wage social care system”, where there was “barely time to make a cup of tea let alone exchange a meaningful word”.
He pledged that Labour would end zero-hour contracts for care workers, saying: “How can anyone who doesn’t have the security of knowing what they will earn one week to the next, pass on a sense of security to those they care for.”
Mr Burnham also told the conference Labour was “committed to safe [NHS] staffing levels, based on expert advice”. He accused the government of ignoring “report after report” recommending them.
However, speaking to Nursing Times after his speech, Mr Burnham did not commit to making a minimum staffing level law, saying only that he “would not rule it out”.
“We want an enforceable safe staffing level,” he told Nursing Times.
He also criticised ministers for failing to act on a Francis report recommendation that the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence should be tasked with developing guidance of safe staffing levels.
Nursing Times revealed in August that NICE was yet to be formally asked to draw up evidence-based tools for establishing minimum safe staffing levels, six months after it was recommended by the public inquiry report in the care failings at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust.
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