Streeting announces ten-year plan to make NHS “fit for the future”

Katie Neame

Wes Streeting has announced that Labour will deliver a ten-year plan for change and modernisation in the NHS, including a significant boost in the healthcare workforce, to make the health service “fit for the future”.

Addressing Labour conference this morning, the Shadow Health Secretary said: “The next Labour government will agree a ten-year plan with the NHS to shift the focus of healthcare out of the hospital and into the community.

“Our plan to recruit more doctors will deliver better access to GPs and ease pressure on A&Es. Our plan to recruit 8,500 mental health workers will provide faster treatment, support in schools and ease pressure on hospitals.

“And our commitment to deliver better pay, terms and conditions for care workers will reduce the 400,000 delayed discharges every month and provide better quality care for older and disabled people: the first steps on the road to a National Care Service.”

Labour said its plan would ensure fewer patients need to go to hospital, “shifting resources to social care, GPs, care at home and mental health services”.

Streeting told conference delegates: “Patients need a Labour government. The NHS isn’t just Labour’s greatest achievement. It’s Britain’s greatest achievement. And the values that underpin the NHS – a publicly-funded public service, free at the point of use – aren’t just Labour’s values, they are Britain’s values, too.”

The Labour frontbencher said the state of the health service in Britain is an “absolute disgrace”, telling conference: “We have the highest NHS waiting lists in history. People unable to see their GP. Heart attack and stroke victims left waiting longer than an hour for an ambulance when every second counts.”

He said the “principle of an NHS publicly funded, free at the point of use” is “under attack”, declaring: “Conservatives who spent the last 12 years running down the NHS are now using their failures to claim that the NHS is beyond repair.”

Streeting described himself as a “Labour moderniser”, adding: “If we don’t modernise and change the NHS, it will become unsustainable.” He said: “I want Britain leading the revolution in medical science and technology. It offers a world of possibility for the NHS to transform patient care.”

Rachel Reeves announced on Monday that Labour would reinstate the 45% top rate of income tax and use the funds raised to “double the number of district nurses qualifying every year, train more than 5,000 new health visitors and create an additional 10,000 nursing and midwife placements every year”.

The Shadow Chancellor added: “More than that: We will implement the biggest expansion of medical school places in British history, doubling the number of places so we have the doctors we need in our NHS.”

Streeting told conference today that he would be the “shop steward for patients” and give patients a “voice as well as choice”. He announced that Labour would enable patients to book online and self-refer to specialist services, where appropriate.

He said under Labour’s plan patients would be offered a “wider range of choice”, allowing them to select whether they want to see someone face-to-face, on the phone or via a video link

Below is the full text of the speech delivered by Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting to Labour’s 2022 annual conference in Liverpool this morning.

If you want to see a monument to the Conservative Party’s mismanagement of the NHS is it this. David Wakeley, an 87-year-old pensioner with cancer. The makeshift tent was made by his son, to provide cover for David as he lay shivering on the rainswept concrete floor where he’d fallen. He had fractured ribs and a fractured pelvis. And he was forced to wait 15 hours for an ambulance.

This is the state of the NHS in Tory Britain, and it is an absolute disgrace. We have the highest NHS waiting lists in history. People unable to see their GP. Heart attack and stroke victims left waiting longer than an hour for an ambulance when every second counts. The Tories will try to blame the pandemic.

But we had 100,000 NHS staff vacancies before the pandemic. NHS waiting lists were already at a record 4.5 million before the pandemic. The number of cancer patients not getting care on time rose in every single year since the Tories came to power before the pandemic. The longer the Conservatives are in power, the longer patients will wait.

The Tories run from their record, but we’re proud of ours. Proud of 89,000 more nurses. 44,000 more doctors. Faster cancer treatment. The lowest waiting times on record. And the highest patient satisfaction in history. That’s the difference a Labour government makes.

But the challenge today is even greater than it was in 1997. The very principle of an NHS publicly funded, free at the point of use, is now under attack. Conservatives who spent the last 12 years running down the NHS are now using their failures to claim that the NHS is beyond repair.

Lots of you know that I went through kidney cancer last year. When I received that cancer diagnosis there were so many things I worried about. But the one thing I didn’t have to worry about was the bill. So to those who argue we should abandon a publicly funded NHS free at the point of use I say: over my dead body.

I’m a Labour moderniser. I make no apology for it. Because if we don’t modernise and change the NHS, it will become unsustainable.

So here’s what we’ll do to make the NHS fit for the future. Without a workforce plan, the Conservatives have no plan for the NHS. Everything else they announce is a sticking plaster that fails to address the root cause of the NHS crisis.

Politics is about choices. Labour believes the country needs doctors and nurses more than the richest need a tax cut. So we will double the number of medical training places And create an extra 10,000 nursing and midwifery clinical placements every year. More doctors, more nurses, lower waiting times, higher standards for patients

That’s the Labour pledge at the next general election. Alongside investment will come the change and modernisation that the public are crying out for. Voters won’t accept pouring money into 20th century healthcare that isn’t fit for the future. We don’t focus nearly enough on prevention, early intervention and care in the community.

Because people can’t see a GP they end up in A&E, which is worse for them and more expensive for the taxpayer. Because people can’t get the mental health support they need, they reach a crisis point, which is worse for them and more expensive for the taxpayer. Because people can’t get the social care they need, they’re left stuck in hospital, which is worse for them and more expensive for the taxpayer.

So the next Labour government will agree a ten-year plan with the NHS to shift the focus of healthcare out of the hospital and into the community. Our plan to recruit more doctors will deliver better access to GPs and ease pressure on A&Es. Our plan to recruit 8,500 mental health workers will provide faster treatment, support in schools and ease pressure on hospitals. And our commitment to deliver better pay, terms and conditions for care workers, will reduce the 400,000 delayed discharges every month and provide better quality care for older and disabled people. The first steps on the road to a National Care Service.

There are so many people in hospital who wouldn’t need to be there if we could provide quality care at home. District nursing will be at the heart of Labour’s plan. The Conservatives have cut four in ten district nurse posts. Labour will double the number of district nurses qualifying every year.

For kids from working class backgrounds like mine, life chances and even life expectancy can be determined from the moment we’re born. Health visitors have such an important role to play in helping mums and dads, but they are managing dangerously high caseloads.

So we will train 5,000 health visitors to tackle the shortage and give every child the best, healthy start in life. Our ten-year plan for the NHS will be the antidote to the Tory miserablism about the NHS and its future. I want Britain leading the revolution in medical science and technology. It offers a world of possibility for the NHS to transform patient care. Technology can diagnose patients more accurately than the human eye. Virtual wards allow people to receive hospital care at home. But the biggest prize of all is the advance in genomics and the data revolution that will allow us to transform our model care from one that diagnoses and treats illness to one that can predict and prevent it.

This will be at the heart of Labour’s ten-year plan for change and modernisation. And so will higher standards for patients. As Labour’s Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, I’ll be the shop steward for patients. Giving patients a voice as well as choice.

Patients deserve better than a two-week wait to see a GP. I have higher standards for patients. When we were in government, Labour guaranteed appointments within two days. Labour will give all patients the ability to book online, the opportunity to self-refer to specialist services where appropriate and a wider range of choice so that we can choose whether we want to see someone face-to-face, on the phone or via a video link. The days of waiting on the phone at 8am to book an appointment with your GP will be over, and we will bring back the family doctor.

Patients need a Labour government. The NHS isn’t just Labour’s greatest achievement. It’s Britain’s greatest achievement. And the values that underpin the NHS – a publicly-funded public service, free at the point of use – aren’t just Labour’s values, they are Britain’s values, too. And our party has always understood that the NHS needs to change to adapt to modern challenges.

So now it falls to our generation. No more overflowing A&Es and waiting weeks to see a doctor. No more patients dying before they can get the treatment they need. No more staff in tears, leaving the NHS, broken and exhausted. No more cancer patients left under make-shift shelters in their gardens, waiting 15 hours for an ambulance.

Instead – a Labour government: empowering patients; cherishing staff; shifting to prevention; caring in the community; giving real choices; tackling inequalities; building a National Care Service; and an NHS fit for the future. The cavalry is coming with Labour. So let’s go out there and win for Labour, win for the NHS and win for Britain. Thank you.

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