Labour Leadership and health

Labour Health Policy

What do the candidates have to say about health?  In a word, rather less than you might expect, given how central the NHS has been to Labour Party campaigning.

Jeremy Corbyn

Corbyn was a member of a health authority before he was an MP. Nothing seems to be published about this.

He wants a ‘fully-funded NHS, integrated with social care, with an end to privatisation in health’ and  that NHS should be “completely publicly run and publicly accountable”.  He says  the ‘principle of universal healthcare which is free at the point of use is something that we all deserve and should be absolutely protected’.  Nothing we could object to there, but it’s not clear exactly what he means.  The NHS has never been “completely publicly run and publicly accountable” before.  Primary care is almost entirely privately run by contractors – GPs, dentists, opticians and pharmacists – who run their own businesses.  He is a supporter of the NHS Reinstatement Bill. That proposes to:

  • reinstate in England the legal duty of the Secretary of State to provide the NHS,
  • re-establish local health authorities, and NHS England as a special health authority, to carry out the Secretary of State’s duty,
  • abolish clinical commissioning groups, NHS trusts, NHS foundation trusts,
  • re-establish Community Health Councils to represent the interests of the public in the NHS,
  • only allow private companies to provide NHS services as an exception, if the NHS can’t and otherwise people would suffer.

That would, of course, imply a monumental reorganisation of the NHS in England.

Andy Burnham

Most of Burnham’s career has been around the NHS, and he has worked closely with the Association for many years.

What he says in his manifesto about health is “Good care for all your needs from cradle to grave – and no one forced to sell their home – through a National Health and Care Service, bringing social care into the NHS.”  He is  committed to “extending the NHS principle to social care – where everybody is asked to make a contribution according to their means and where everybody then has the peace of mind of knowing that all their care needs, and those of their family, are covered. Labour’s ambition for 21st century care should be to create a National Health and Care Service that supports people with dementia or autism as well as it treats cancer today.”

What he says about TTIP is “freer trade must be accompanied by fairer trade; the ability of governments to protect their citizens and keep public services free of corporate influence must never be sacrificed. When it comes to the TTIP deal under negotiation between the European Union and the USA, I will call for an exemption for all public services. I will fight proposals for private tribunals with the power to sit in judgement on national governments. As Labour Leader, I will adopt a tougher stance on TTIP than we have had to date. ”

Yvette Cooper

Unlike the other three candidates Cooper does not appear to have had any involvement in NHS policy or management.  She has, however, described how she spent a year living on sickness benefits after developing ME when she was 24.

She wants to see protest free buffer zones around abortion clinics, and she too wants to  integrate health and social care, but otherwise she hasn’t said much about health.

Liz Kendall

Kandall’s career has been spent in health and social care, working for the Institute for Public Policy Research, the Maternity Alliance, and the Ambulance Services Network, culminating in her appointment as Shadow Minister for Care and Older People.

She says more about inequality in her campaign than about the organisation of the NHS.  Her headline pledge is that “Your chance of fulfilling your potential should never be determined by where you’re born, what your parents did, your gender, sexuality or the colour of your skin. That means tackling the inequalities that set in before children even start school.”  She wants to “do more to help families look after their loved ones and ensure everyone gets decent care and support in their old age.

We asked our members who the Socialist Health Association should support in the leadership campaign and Corbyn was, narrowly the winner. So we officially endorse him. But looking at the list of nominations its clear that not all our members agree.