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The NHS and Labour’s health policy for the 21st century

First, quick quiz – anyone remember who created the NHS? Anyone remember when this took place? Yup – the Labour government of 1945, at a time of massive financial and social suffering – they knew they needed to invest for our futures.

They did this in three years. and at the same time oversaw massive building programmes to replace bombed out homes. And at  recent meeting of the Bristol West Labour party membership the NHS was the achievement most frequently mentioned as the Labour achievement they have most benefitted from. In recent petition collections across the constituency, so many people said “I’d be dead without the NHS” but also said how concerned they are about what the Tory-LibDem coalition is doing to it now. So what will Labour do if we win in 2015?

Andy Burnham, our shadow health secretary, has been making our policy approach very clear since conference in 2011, but the coverage doesn’t always reach everyone. So here’s a summary:

We will bring back secretary of state responsibility for health – at the moment, no-one is in charge. Andy Burnham will have final responsibility for ensuring free high quality health care for all.

We will repeal the Tory-LibDem NHS Act. Here is a video of Andy Burnham saying so on the Daily Telegraph website. We will remove the competition, the restrictions on the publicly owned NHS bidding for contracts, the massive hurtling swerve to a privatised NHS with providers who compete, not co-operate – which is what the NHS Act, under the Tory-LibDem coalition government, has done to our NHS.

We will be bringing social care and health provision together. and again, a video of Andy Burnham saying so on the Daily Telegraph website, in his speech to the Kings Fund in April 2013.  This is sensible, 21st century policy – the false separation between social and health care causes uncertainty, hardship and unnecessary anxiety for people who need both.

And we will be protecting and valuing our colleagues who work in the NHS and our unions who stand up for their rights. We are already listening to what they want and how they want to work, not going against them, as the Tory-LibDem coalition government has done with their NHS wrecking – remember, our MP supported all of this.

We have NHS staff and NHS union reps in our local membership – the NHS comes up more often than anything else in our weekly campaign sessions and our NHS campaign day showed just how much people care about this wonderfully British institution. My colleague and friend Karin Smyth, Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Bristol South, also works for the NHS and will be a huge help to the next Labour front bench with her expertise.

Locally – what do we think?

Couple of months ago, Bristol West Labour member and NHS manager Nye Harries organised a meeting of the Socialist Health Association (SHA) in Bristol, hosted by Unison South West – thanks to  our Judy Wilson, also BW member and Unison organiser. The meeting was well attended, lively and interesting – excellent speakers Gabriel Scally, former director of NHS England for Southern region, and Richard Bourne, chair of SHA gave us a picture of Labour’s health policy and the challenges which will be left by the mess the Coalition government is making of our NHS (supported by our own LibDem MP). In small and large groups, we discussed specific ideas and broad approaches. Nye did an excellent job of writing up the discussion and has submitted it to the Labour party manifesto consultation. You can read his paper here.

Labour has a tradition of knowing when we need bold action, to invest for the future and protecting our NHS. This is one of the most important campaign priorities for me in Bristol West over the next few years. If you agree and want to join our campaigning – get in touch.

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