Hosted in Liverpool at the end of September, Intelligent Health’s Policy Lead, Emily Carter takes a look into any updates from health, levelling up, sport and physical activity and transport from the Labour Party Conference.
In the month which witnessed two Prime Ministers and two monarchs, the Labour Party and Official Opposition of UK Government concluded the month with its annual party conference. With the ongoing cost of living crisis a hot topic, we consider any relevant updates for the sector and how the UK’s second largest parliamentary party seeks to win over voters in the next General Election.
Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary, Wes Streeting, opened his conference speech with a recognition of the achievements of the 1997-2010 Labour governments. Indicating that Labour believes that the challenge of the NHS is greater now than it was in 1997, Streeting spoke of his own personal experience of a cancer diagnosis in 2021 and laid out his plans for a “NHS fit for the future.”
The Shadow Secretary pledged to double the number of medical training places in addition to creating an extra 10,000 nursing and midwifery clinical places every year under a Labour government, using the strapline “More doctors, more nurses, lower waiting times, higher standards for patients.”
Staying on the topic of modernising the NHS, Streeting stated that as a country not enough focus is placed on prevention, early intervention and care in the community. Labour is proposing a 10-year plan jointly agreed with the NHS, to place focus on community healthcare. These first steps to a ‘National Care Service’ will include:
- Recruiting more doctors for better access to general practice and easing pressure on A&E departments;
- 8,500 mental health workers to provide faster treatment, supporting both schools and hospitals;
- A commitment for better pay, terms and conditions for those working in care, with the aim to reduce delayed discharges;
- Doubling the number of District Nurses qualifying each year; and
- Training 5,000 health visitors.
Streeting also promised to deliver an NHS for the digital age, ensuring that the advance in genomics and the data revolution is harnessed to transform the mode of care from diagnoses and treatment to prediction and prevention.
The Shadow Cabinet also includes Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, who is the Shadow Cabinet Minister for Mental Health. Under a Labour government, the party would:
- Guarantee NHS mental health support within one month;
- Improve service quality for patients;
- Recruit more dedicated mental health staff;
- Mental health support available in every school;
- Establish community mental health hubs for young people; and
- Guarantee a fair share of funding directly for addressing mental health.
Former Labour Party leadership candidate Lisa Nandy is Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. During Labour Party Conference, the Shadow Secretary said it was “time to stand up and fight again” to build a country “where everyone can contribute and everyone has a stake in our future.”
Nandy pledged to “tilt the balance of power” back in favour to our communities in the first 100 days of a Labour government by:
- Ending ‘fire and rehire;’
- Repealing the Trade Union Act 2016; and
- Raising wages for the lowest paid.
Labour would also seek to invest in bringing clean energy jobs to industrial and coastal towns across Britain, further empower the Metro Mayors with new powers and introduce a community right to buy land and assets such as football clubs, pubs and historic buildings.
Nandy also set out Labour’s ambition to rebuild the country’s social housing stock, echoing Tony Blair’s mantra of “education, education, education” – for Nandy it was “council housing, council housing, council housing.” Ambition was also indicated to open up home ownership to millions more, and write a new renters’ charter and decent homes standard to protect those living in privately-rented homes.
Sport and physical activity
Lucy Powell, the Shadow Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, opened her speech by giving thanks to DCMS officials, the Palace, police and the armed forces for the handling of the Queen’s passing and state funeral throughout September. Mentioning that the events of the month had been broadcast across British television, Powell pledged to keep Channel 4 in public ownership and secure the future of the BBC as a “universal, publicly owned broadcaster,” whilst protecting it from party political interference.
On sport, Powell said that the Premier League has elevated English football, but that “the lion has become unchained,” promising a statutory, independent football regulator under a Labour government to protect communities and fans. Citing Liverpool and Manchester as beacons of sport and culture in recent years, the Shadow Secretary urged that Labour wants to enable “happy, thriving people and places that they feel proud of.”
Acknowledging the adapting to the Digital Age, Labour would also ensure that workers would not fall victim to the “wrong end of automation,” instead ensuring that automation will be used as a tool to improve prospects. Labour would also ensure the country had world-leading digital infrastructure, bolstered by better pay and working conditions for telecommunications workers and the provision of opportunities to technologically upskill the workforce.
The conference speech of Louise Haigh understandably focused on the current issues surrounding public transport, with her “number one priority” in a Labour government being to end the decline in the public transport system. Haigh criticised the Conservative government’s approach to delivering the Northern Powerhouse Rail and pledged to “build an Elizabeth Line for the North”, whilst delivering both the Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2 in full.
Citing delays, complaints and the cost of fares, Haigh said that under a Labour government power from failing private train operators would be back in the hands of the public. Labour also committed to putting the public back in control of essential public transport, with the power to set bus routes and fares being given to those communities that want it and an end to the ban on community-established municipal bus companies.
Active travel did not feature in the speech. However, the Shadow Minister for Green Transport, Kerry McCarthy, has recently suggested that the current government “strikes while the iron is hot on active travel.” Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor, Steve Rotherham also lauded the cities active travel network and how it demonstrates “the difference Labour can make in power.”
Intelligent Health will continue to provide its partners with updates on policy news affecting the sector. You can also read our ‘What’s what?’ for this year’s Conservative Party Conference.
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