Labour unveils £26bn “NHS rescue plan” to end crisis

Elliot Chappell

Jonathan Ashworth and John McDonnell are set to unveil a £26bn real terms “NHS rescue plan” with the aim of ending the Tory funding crisis and delivering “real change for patients”.

Delivering speeches on Wednesday at the home of The Royal Society of Medicine, the Shadow Health Secretary and Shadow Chancellor will announce a major boost for the health service amounting to a 4.3% increase in spending over four years.

The pledge is designed to allow the NHS to provide quality care, recruit thousands of members of staff, rebuild facilities and offer modern equipment. It will involve spending £6bn more between 2018-19 and 2023-24 than the Tories have promised so far.

“The world-class health service we all need and depend on needs proper funding,” McDonnell will say. “Labour’s policies to tax the richest in society and invest for the future through our social transformation fund mean we will be able to improve millions of lives.

Reiterating Labour’s opposition to profit in healthcare provision, the Shadow Chancellor will add: “And ending privatisation means that money can be spent on healthcare rather than dividends for Boris Johnson’s friends in the private healthcare industry.”

Labour’s proposed plan will include NHS capital expenditure rising to the international average, £1bn a year training and education budgets, and £1bn more to fund a major expansions of public health services.

It will form part of a drive on preventative measures to stop people getting sick in the first place, and Labour’s broader objective to tackle health inequality and prioritise children’s health and wellbeing.

To provide quality care and rebuild the NHS, Labour’s plan includes:

  • An extra £1.6bn NHS spending per year – for school counselling services, community mental health hubs for young people, investment in community services for severe mental illnesses, high quality liaison and 24/7 crisis care for people living with poor mental health;
  • A new £2bn strategic mental health infrastructure fund – to abolish dormitory wards, make every inpatient setting safe for patients, invest in more beds to end out of area placements and roll out a fleet of crisis ambulances;
  • An extra £2.5bn to overhaul the primary care estate so that GPs can deliver better local care in their communities;
  • An extra £1.5bn to increase the numbers of CT and MRI scanners to the OECD average.

For staff, Labour’s plan includes:

  • £1bn – to restore a training bursary for nurses and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) to help recruit 24,000 extra nurses, midwives, allied health professionals;
  • Expand GP training places to 5,000 – to create 27 million more appointments;
  • Investment in mental health support for NHS staff.

Jon Ashworth is expected to say: “A decade of Tory underfunding and cuts has driven our NHS into year round crisis. Over 15,000 beds have been cut, hospitals are crumbling and our NHS is chronically short of nurses and family doctors.

“Just last week we all were shocked by the heart-breaking image of an 88-year-old woman, left languishing for hours and hours on a trolley in a hospital corridor. With experts warning this winter is set to be one of the worst, the truth is our NHS is crying out for a financial rescue plan to deliver real change for patients.

“We are announcing today the levels of investment our NHS needs to not only again provide the quality care our sick and elderly deserve but secures the NHS for the future as well. We’ll invest more to prevent people becoming ill in the first place and we’ll give mental health and wellbeing a greater priority than ever before.

“This general election is about millions on waiting lists and hundreds of thousands who’ve waited on trolleys under the Tories – only Labour has a plan to rescue our NHS.”

The Conservative government is missing key performance targets month after month. In August this year, there were 4.41m people on the waiting list in England – the highest on record. This waiting time target hasn’t been met since February 2016.

Last year, there were 2.9m people waiting longer than four hours in A&E and the four-hour waiting time target hasn’t been met since 2015. The 62-day cancer waiting time target also hasn’t been met since 2015.

The British Medical Association has warned that 300,000 people could be left waiting on trolleys this year. Using data from last year, the BMA has estimated that the NHS will struggle to meet demands from patients waiting in A&E.

Labour has outlined that its rescue plan will be funded by its proposals to reverse corporation tax cuts and raise taxes for the richest in society. Further details are expected once the manifesto and its costings are released.

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