19 Jun 2024

A Labour Government’s top priorities for Health and Social Care

During MHP Health’s recent ‘In Conversation’ event with Wes Streeting, the Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care explored the health policies and priorities of a potential Labour Government.

MHP Group

Healthcare is one of the most important issues facing the nation at this General Election and with just over two weeks to polling day, Wes Streeting is expected to become the UK’s next Health Secretary.

Mr Streeting joined Shaun Lintern, Health Editor of the Sunday Times and Chair of the Medical Journalists’ Association, to outline how he would deal with issues such as record NHS waiting lists, striking doctors, life-sciences investment and the social care crisis.

Here are the top five takeaways:

Make every pound count

Labour aims to maximise the value of every pound invested in healthcare, ensuring it goes further and delivers better outcomes. Labour believes the key to success is reassessing current expenditure. For example, during a visit to London St Mary’s Hospital he met a patient who had not been discharged despite being well enough to leave for 60-days due to a lack of available care in the community. This case is not an anomaly; it is reported that the number of patients in a similar situation could fill 26 hospitals, costing £1.7 billion annually.

Embedding innovation and supporting life sciences

Mr Streeting claimed that ‘the NHS has more pilots than the RAF’. Labour wants to take the successful schemes and scale these up, making them the norm rather than the exception.

If the UK is to be a hub for life sciences manufacturing, with a gold standard healthcare system then adoption and rollout must be implemented. A key to this is transforming the digital NHS App to facilitate clinical trials through prompts being sent to relevant patients. However, this is only possible by improving the app user experience and addressing data privacy concerns so that patients feel comfortable with their data being shared.

Collaboration and partnership is essential

Mr Streeting believes open dialogue, ‘partnership and mutual accountability’ is essential in  addressing the needs of the NHS and ultimately improving the care that the public receive. Current relationships with NHS Chief Executives and government officials are strained, along with charity and patient groups, following years of miscommunication and unkept promises. Mr Streeting aims to improve relationships with system leaders through open communication and the acknowledgement that for the NHS to thrive, every tier of the system must be making the contributions they can.

NHS and social care: how they can interlink

Long-term social reform is essential to ending unacceptable ‘corridor care’ in the NHS. However, the England’s social care system, which is run either privately or by local authorities, often operates in silos separate from the NHS. Despite this, Mr Streeting stated that solutions ‘often lie outside the hospital’, and thus, the NHS must collaborate and invest in social care to alleviate waiting times and bed shortages.

Mr Streeting is also an advocate for a workforce transition that encourages and attracts movement from the NHS to social care, rather than only the current predominant flow from social care to the NHS.

Commitment to investment

Despite having a manifesto structured on growth, Mr Streeting acknowledges the necessity for the next Labour government to commit to long-term, sustained investment to fix the current state of the NHS. This includes honouring the current government’s pledge to build 40 new hospitals, engage in conversations regarding doctors pay – however, 35 per cent increase will not be met – and exploring the implementation of a social care fair pay agreement.

Mr Streeting also stressed the importance of releasing allocated funds for hospital infrastructure improvements and developments, citing visits to ‘piles of dirt’ where new hospitals are planned but not materialising.

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