Jeremy Corbyn’s vision to rebuild and transform Britain can save our NHS and social care

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Jeremy Corbyn recently set out ten pledges to rebuild and transform Britain. These set out what I believe is the basis of Jeremy winning the leadership election this summer, but also the basis for a General Election victory and a radical government to transform Britain.

As Shadow Secretary of State for Health, I very much welcome Jeremy’s pledge to ‘secure our NHS and social care.’ In stating that “we will end health service privatisation and bring services into a secure, publicly-provided NHS. We will integrate the NHS and social care for older and disabled people, funding dignity across the board and ensure parity for mental health services.” Jeremy has shown that we will protect our NHS and provide much needed investment in our social care.

This is in stark contrast to the Conservatives, who in this Government and in leading the Coalition, have worked to bring the NHS to its knees. The NHS has experienced the lowest annual spending rises in its history – despite the much vaunted promises to ‘protect’ NHS spending. The Health and Social Care Act has wreaked untold damage, opening the door to systematic privatisation.

The result has been deep cuts to services; whilst waiting lists are growing, and the Government is failing patients by missing key targets on cancer treatment and Accident and Emergency waiting times. The government is driving through £22 billion in cuts by 2020 and right now the NHS is short of 50,000 front-line staff nationwide.  Accompanying the crisis in the NHS itself there is an ever-deepening crisis of social care, with one in ten over 50 not having their care needs met.

Rather than get to grips with the scale of the crisis, the Government has been flat out dishonest, promising the health service almost double what they actually plan to spend – squeezing the NHS by making cuts to public health, social care and health education budgets. Their actions resulted in unprecedented industrial action by Junior Doctors who felt compelled to take action to defend the future of health services and patient safety.

It is clear that the Conservatives are undermining the future existence of an institution regularly described as one of Britain’s greatest achievements. That everyone should be freely able to access the healthcare they need was first a political aspiration that captured people’s support – and its implementation was transformative for the lives of millions.

To secure the future of our NHS and to create a social care system that delivers care to enable dignified, independent lives, will take a radical vision and unwavering commitment – a commitment that Jeremy Corbyn and I share.

We would repeal the Health and Social Care Act, as the first step undoing the damaging and wasteful marketization that has been inflicted over many years. This means returning the NHS to what it was originally conceived as – a publicly owned, publicly funded, publicly accountable universal service – as outlined in the NHS Reinstatement Bill.

The massive crisis in our NHS has a knock on impact in so many aspects of daily lives. The government’s superficial £1 billion a year pledge to tackle Mental Health was packaged as a revolution, yet it is barely enough to sustain the already sorely inadequate service.  

Britain has a mental health crisis and this government is making it worse through cuts in funding, services and support, and by creating a more insecure and unequal society.

Similarly, the main reason for the extent of the crisis in social care is that support to help people stay safe and independent at home is mainly arranged by local councils, organisations that have borne the brunt of spending cuts.

In a clear false economy, cuts to social care mean more and more patients languish in hospitals. There is a huge knock-on effect on the NHS, where each year more older people are finding themselves trapped in hospital, simply because there isn’t the care available for them. This is to the detriment of their physical and mental health. It is completely against the ethos we should be aiming to deliver in social care.

The NHS and social care are interlinked and in order to  build a sustainable future for the NHS and Social care we need not only proper funding, but to recognise how our public services impact on each other. It also means we need to tackle the barriers that exist to us becoming a healthier society; barriers that create greater costs for us all.   

Whilst this government is using the discredited concept of austerity to cut our health and care sectors budgets, depriving them of the finance they need to support our sick and older people, under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership Labour is clearly opposing the Tories on issue after issue in defence of our NHS, from backing the junior doctors to opposing the scrapping of nurses bursaries.

A Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour is not just about opposing the Tories’ failed policies of austerity. It’s also about setting our sights higher about the type of society we want and that’s why Jeremy’s 10 pledges are so important. We can make this radical change with a genuinely transformative economic policy that is not based on cuts, but instead invests to grow our economy. That is the way to save our NHS and social care.

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