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Lab SP: King's Fund
The Prime Minister spoke at The King's Fund* on investment in the NHS and Labour's plans to improve health.

*Approved by Nathan

Quote:Thank you.
It’s a pleasure to be here tonight.
The past nine years, as many of you will note, were hard for our National Health Service. Nearly a decade of austerity did a great amount of damage to the NHS. And not just in terms of wait times, though I will address that shortly. There is an immense human cost as well. A cost that can be measured in nurses that are forced to rely on foodbanks. A cost that can be measured in buildings with leaky roofs and rodent problems that put patients at risk. A cost that can be measured in doctors who are overworked, underpaid, and unable to provide the services they desire because of cost constraints.
Those are some of the human costs that austerity foisted on the workers of the National Health Service, the men and women that work day and night to keep our nation healthy. And those real costs only compound the problems that have been seen throughout the National Health Service. The waiting lists that are longer than they ever have been in history. The A&E waits that are the longest we have ever seen – with thousands waiting more than four hours for emergency treatments. The cancer care wait times that are longer than ever before – forcing thousands to wait months just to start treatment for cancer.
That is the challenge that this government faced just months ago when we took office. And, as a result of the Green Party, those are challenges that will not be resolved over the months ahead. Yet we remain committed to confronting them.
The course that this Government set out in our budget would have put the NHS on sound financial footing. After years of neglect, we set out a plan to ensure that the NHS received the funding that it required. Our NHS investment agenda rests on three pillars: NHS people, NHS frontline services, and NHS infrastructure.
First is our plan for people in the NHS. Years ago, the Conservative Party set out their goal for achieving a 24/7 NHS. Yet, in their desire to do so, they overlooked the needs of the people who run the NHS. We strive to begin undoing that today, by giving our doctors, nurses, and allied health professionals a real pay raise to ensure that working in the NHS is just as alluring a career as working in the private sector. This is combined with a historic commitment to hiring, nearly thirty thousand workers, in order to ensure that our NHS is fully staffed. And, had we more time, we would have followed through on our plan to ensure that the NHS has access to global talent with a new visa for NHS workers.
Second is our plan for investment in NHS commissioning: a critical component to improving frontline services. Our budget plan ensured a minimum 4.4% increase in real terms for hospital care, primary care, A&E care, and mental health. These are investments that are critical to reducing wait times across our health service and ensuring that the NHS has the investment that it needs to keep working, to keep caring for patients. Yet there is more than that: we identified public health as a frontline service in the NHS – a key component of stopping diseases before they start - and funded it accordingly. That is a policy that we will continue to promote: beyond this budget, beyond this government.
And the third pillar of this budget is our commitment to improving the physical infrastructure of our NHS: the hospitals and clinics where we seek care. A centerpiece of our commitment is the construction of twenty-five large village hospitals. As the Centre for Towns reports, often citizens in our towns find themselves too far from their nearest hospital when they are in need of care. By investing in rural health infrastructure in this way, we will reverse this concerning statistic. Yet we also commit to building new urban capacity and, importantly, repairing the old stock. Terrifying reports surfaced of a massive shortfall in essential maintenance in our hospitals – in 2018, nearly £1 billion of that shortfall was high-risk. To think that there is £1 billion worth of repairs needed in our hospitals that cause high risk to patients and NHS staff is unconscionable. That is why this Government proposed fully funding these urgent maintenance repairs: to ensure that every hospital was a safe place for all.
Of course, these spending proposals were rendered moot by a Green Party intent on putting a slice of cake over the lives of millions in our country. Yet I still find hope. Though we find ourselves likely heading into an election, we know that there is more that we can do. Labour’s plans, beyond investment, will power the NHS through the next decade: restoring the public ethos, transitioning to innovative care and medicines, and renewing the focus on public health.
The matter of public ethos, as a former physician, is particularly important to me. Our NHS is founded on a simple belief: universal care, for all people, free at point of use. Yet, attempts to force the market into the NHS has diluted that ethos, as companies seeking profit are able to provide an alternative level of care: this race to the bottom mentality cannot be allowed to stand. We can restore the public value of the NHS by repealing the disastrous changes put forward in the Health and Social Care Act that mandated tendering of health services. While there may be a role for tendering in expanding capacity, we should not allow a market-driven race to the bottom to override the public mission of the NHS: there is a place for markets in society – it is not in the NHS.
As we think about innovation in medicine, we often think of new cures: we absolutely need those. And we are committed to establishing the structures necessary to facilitate them. Yet we can also use technology to make medicine far more accessible across our country. Advances in telemedicine could provide benefits to hard working people who cannot find the time to see their doctor right away. These advances are things that we should absolutely look into. Combined with electronic health records, this offers the potential to dramatically improve the provision of care around our country. That is something that we absolutely must pursue.
Finally, we must think about public health as a core part of the NHS. It is often said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. My time fighting infectious disease outbreaks here in Britain and around the globe only reinforced my belief in that statement. So I firmly believe that we must improve the integration between public health and NHS. The question is how? I propose that, using the powers available to us, we mandate that every clinical commissioning group have a director of public health on its governing body. This is a simple strategy to ensure that public and community health is considered as critical commissioning decisions are made. And that expertise can be rapidly applied: expanding public health voices in the challenge of fighting hospital-acquired infections will be a powerful tool in reducing the burden of disease in the United Kingdom. Combining that with a massive effort to tackle antibiotic resistance will yield benefits in hospital and communities across our nation.
By increasing the role of public health in commissioning, we can further ensure that critical public health interventions are commissioned. The first studies of pre-exposure prophylaxis, PrEP - a simple treatment to prevent the spread of HIV, were published in 2013. Yet nine years later, despite being available throughout the rest of the developed world, PrEP is not available in the United Kingdom. While our budget would have changed that, the real problem here is that the lack of public health voices in commissioning slowed efforts to utilise PrEP in the United Kingdom. And as a result of that, we have people across the country going into A&Es and claiming high risk exposures to HIV simply so they can get access to Truvada. That places a burden on our A&Es. The cascading impacts of a failure to consider public health in this case and many others are immense. That is why public health must be reprioritised as a key part of our Health Service.
These are significant changes to the way that our health system works. But they are changes that we need. They represent an ambitious programme of investment, of reform, and of renewal for the NHS. And I am proud to say that these are the policies that Labour hopes to continue on with in government.
I would like to close tonight by speaking to all those seeking care, but unable to receive it because of wait times: it shouldn’t be this way. The United Kingdom needs a government with a credible plan to put our NHS back on track: we provide that. The United Kingdom needs a government with a plan to put the public ethos back in the NHS at all levels: we provide that. No matter where you stand on a waiting list, our message is simple: Labour will ensure that you get the care you need – Labour will get you there.
Caroline Blakesley MP DCB
Prime Minister (June 2019-)
MP for Manchester Central (2015-) | Labour
Traits: Fundraising Extraordionare, Campaign Guru, Media Darling, Constituency Pariah
Excellent speech on the NHS, which is something everyone cares about a lot. Investment, pay rises, investment, nurses, investment, money, nurses, and investment are all promised. People like what they hear, although they wonder where the Health Secretary is.

2x XP to Blakesley

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