Copyright: Jasleen Kaur/
Copyright: Jasleen Kaur/

The NHS and care systems were heroic in getting us through the most critical moments of the pandemic, but at a heavy cost. There are now 6 million people waiting for non-urgent operations. This has been exacerbated by staff shortages, with 110,000 vacancies across the NHS and 105,000 in social care.

The Health and Social Care Bill was an opportunity to fix some of these problems. So I was disappointed that the Tories voted against many amendments put forward by Labour Lords when the legislation came to the Commons yesterday.

In its current form, the Bill will do nothing to alleviate chronic workforce shortages.

The government also watered-down proposed reforms to adult social care by changing the way the £86,000 cap is counted. Together with my Labour colleagues I vehemently opposed this step, as it would further disadvantage people with the least.

Labour had previously managed to pass several amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill in the House of Lords, but most of them were subsequently rejected in the Commons. These amendments would have stopped the government from burying its head in the sand over the workforce crisis, prevented national politics from influencing local service changes and stopped the ‘dementia tax’ which will see working people pay more to protect the assets of the wealthiest.

Labour wins some victories

Despite this missed opportunity, Labour did win some significant victories.

Women in England will continue to have access to telemedicine abortion services thanks to Labour. These services were due to end in September 2022 but now women can get the help they need safely and more quickly than would have been possible prior to the pandemic. I plan to write more about this in my weekly roundup blog tomorrow, published here.

Labour also successfully pushed the government to protect the rights of unpaid carers. Many of you had written to me in support of carers. Young and adult carers have had a difficult two years. These groups had been taken for granted and I am glad the government has now agreed to respect and consult with carers. This sends a strong message to young carers that they matter.

These were a few flashes of compassion and empathy from the Tories in a Bill that could have done with a lot more.

Next steps

The Bill will now return to the House of Lords. Ministers now need to make sure they listen to the Lords. Rather than wasting time trying to overturn the changes, they should now be focused on systemic changes such as bringing waiting times down.

I support Labour’s view that we can’t just ‘fix the crisis in social care’. What is needed after a decade of Tory governance is a 10-year transformation plan.

The last Labour government reduced waiting times from 18 months to 18 weeks.

Your next Labour government will secure the future of our NHS, providing the staff, equipment, and technology it needs to treat patients on time.

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