Speech on the NHS

Labour Health Policy

Delivered at Salford University 15th August.

Later today I’ll be visiting your Healthcare Simulation Labs, to see the state of the art in training the staff who will be the future of our NHS.

And earlier this morning I visited one of the most important sites in the history of our NHS: Trafford General, the NHS’s birthplace, opened by Nye Bevan on 5th July 1948, when it was still called Park Hospital, as the very first NHS hospital.

When Bevan met the first NHS patient, 13-year-old Sylvia Diggory, there on that day, he told her that this was the most civilising step any country had ever taken. He was surely right. But on the same day, in its editorial about the foundation of the NHS, the Manchester Guardian – as it then was – warned: “The larger part of the task is to come. It is a moment of opportunity, not of achievement”. And that was surely right too.

Because the things we’re most proud of in our Party are not events but unfolding processes: the long, hard slog of persuading people that an NHS was needed, of negotiating its creation, of improving it over the years.

The work of Bevan and of Attlee, yes, but the work of everyone in the Labour movement who preceded them and supported them in enabling the Labour Party to form a government with them in it, and the work of everyone who succeeded them in making the NHS work, day by day, decade by decade.

Labour’s commitment to the NHS isn’t just about our pride in our Party’s history, and it isn’t just a statement of our principles. It’s rooted in the lives and experiences of all of us, of all our families. It’s about stories. The NHS is the scene of many of the most intense, memorable, joyful, painful, emotional experiences of our lives. The births of our children. Life-saving operations. And, yes, devastating loss. We all rely on it, and we all know it.

Just a few weeks ago, the NHS saved my brother’s life. Just a couple of years ago, it saved my daughter’s life when she needed an emergency appendectomy. My family and I owe the NHS everything – and yet all of it is free at the point of use, regardless of income, on the basis of need.

NHS going backwards

  • The latest figures show an NHS in constant crisis, with no sign of things getting any better.
    • Nearly 4 million people on the waiting list – the highest level for nine years.
    • 180,000 people waiting more than four hours in A&E last month alone.
    • Over 35,000 patients waiting on trolleys because there aren’t enough available beds for them to be treated in.
    • More than 76,000 cancer patients having to wait more than two months for treatment – in breach of the cancer treatment target which the last Labour government set.

Jeremy Hunt

  • One of the most extensive reshuffles in history when Theresa May became Prime Minister – but she kept Jeremy Hunt in place. She thought Jeremy Hunt was doing a good job.
  • False report on reshuffle day said Jeremy Hunt had been sacked. All over the country, in hospitals and GP surgeries, people cheered.
  • Jeremy Hunt says he wants to be the longest-serving health secretary in history. Well, it’s all very well wanting to keep your job in the face of plenty of evidence you’re no good at it. But if you’re damaging the institution you lead, it’s time for you to go.

Three big risks facing the service in the future under the Tories

Risk 1: Privatisation

  • Privatisation. The Tories have already effectively opened the door to a privatised NHS, by taking away the Secretary of State’s duty to provide or secure the provision of health services in the Health and Social Care Act.
  • New Section 75 regulations require almost every clinical service to be put out to tender.
  • As a shadow health minister back in 2011, fighting the Tory Health Bill line by line, I was one of the first to warn that it would lead to an explosion of privatisation.

We are going to see a progressive and creeping privatisation of the NHS… We will increasingly see many more aspects of the NHS either in the hands of or being delivered through the private sector.”

Tory secret plan for privatisation

  • Figures sneaked out just after the summer recess started show spending on the private sector by the NHS has more than doubled under the Tories, to almost £9 billion.
  • They had to correct those figures because they originally left a billion pounds of spending on the private sector out of them.
  • Jeremy Hunt asked officials to draw up secret plans to privatise the NHS – complaining that the private sector had been “underutilised” and looking at ways of outsourcing clinical services.
  • A privatisation plan put in place by Jeremy Hunt and given the green light by Theresa May.
  • A privatisation plan I will fight as leader of the opposition and end as Prime Minister.

Risk 2: Underfunding

  • The Tories have talked a good game on giving the NHS the resources it needs – remember “I’ll cut the deficit, not the NHS”?
  • But look at the deficits in the NHS.
    • NHS hospitals with a £2.45 billion deficit.
    • The majority of trusts in the red.
  • The decade between 2010 and 2020 will see the biggest financial squeeze in the NHS’s history.
  • NHS spending has dropped as a share of GDP every year under the Tories – dropping back from Labour’s ambition to spend the European average on healthcare.
  • In real terms, the NHS is set to receive less money this year than it did in any year of the last Labour government.
  • Longer waiting times, rationing, services in deficit, closures – it means, quite simply, more suffering for more patients and more families.

Risk 3: Brexit

  • Vote Leave campaign bus – £350 million a week for the NHS. Let’s call that what it is: a lie.

Economic hit

  • Even voting for Brexit has meant an immediate economic hit to the UK and a lowering of our growth forecasts – less money, not more money. Without additional borrowing or tax rises, Philip Hammond and Theresa May will have no choice but to cut the NHS.

Freedom of movement – NHS staffing

  • But the Brexit dividend isn’t just financial. It’s about people too. We have no idea what deal the Tories are going to put in place on freedom of movement, but we do know that one third of new nurses last year came from outside the UK – most of them from the European Economic Area.
  • If we make it harder for the NHS to recruit the staff it needs, at the same time as cutting bursaries and training budgets here, the service simply will not cope.

Trade deals

  • Liam Fox, David Davis and Boris Johnson are in charge of negotiating our trade deals with the rest of the world. Right now they can’t even negotiate what their departments should look like.

Fox and Johnson on the NHS

  • Liam Fox has called for the NHS budget ringfence to be abolished.
  • Boris Johnson has said that “If NHS services continue to be free… they will continue to be abused like any free service. If people have to pay for them, they will value them more.”
  • When other governments make access to our NHS for their companies a precondition for signing trade deals, do you honestly think these Tories are going to say no?
  • If you thought TTIP was bad, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
  • Tories have no interest in protecting the NHS from competition from foreign firms. They believe in a free-market free-for-all, and when they negotiate, our NHS will be on their table.
  • I’m not prepared to see our NHS sold off to pay the cost of Brexit. Under my leadership, Labour will fight the Tories all the way on this.
    • No blank cheque
    • Wrong to call for Article 50 to be triggered straight away
    • Second referendum

My commitment: 4% a year for the NHS

  • NHS spending needs to rise for the foreseeable future. We spend less as proportion of GDP than France, Portugal, the Netherlands.
  • Increase NHS spending by 4% in every year of the next Parliament.
  • NHS funding up to the European average within that Parliament.
  • Over £60 billion more for the NHS than the Tories are planning to spend.
  • I’ll pay for that with five fair tax changes that focus on those who can most afford it.
    1. Reinstate the 50p top rate of tax for those earning over £150,000, which the Tories should never have cut in the first place during a period in which the rest of the country was bearing the burden of austerity.
    2. Reverse the reductions in Corporation Tax due to take place in the next few years. Why are we about to cut our corporation tax to 17% – half the level of the United States of America, probably the most capitalist country in the world?
    3. Reverse the cuts to Inheritance Tax announced last year which would allow people to leave up to £1 million to their children, tax free.
    4. Reverse cuts to Capital Gains Tax announced in this year’s budget.
    5. Wealth tax – a surcharge on investment earnings by the wealthiest 1% in our country that will raise £3 billion a year.
  • Year one: just deals with the Tory cash crisis hitting hospitals.
  • But by the end of the Parliament it could
    • reverse the Government’s shameful decision to scrap bursaries for student nurses, midwives and allied health professionals – restoring NHS bursaries to ensure no-one is put off from entering nursing because of the spectre of debt.
    • open up nursing courses to 10,000 more students – recruiting the nurses we so desperately need to deal with staff shortages on our wards.
    • double spending on cancer research and dementia research – getting us closer to the day we beat these cruel diseases.
    • invest properly in our mental health services to ensure no-one is left to struggle without the help and support they need.
    • close the funding gap in social care – ensuring that old people get the dignity they deserve, and ensuring care workers get paid a decent wage.


These are big goals. This could be transformative for our NHS, and transformative for our society, after a decade of austerity and stagnation. But let’s not kid ourselves about the scale of the task.

We’re arguing to tax the wealthiest more in order to improve our health service for everyone. I believe that’s something the country can get behind, but it will be fought tooth and nail by those who want to defend their privilege, and who never cared about the NHS in the first place. They’re not going to take it lying down.

That’s why the Labour Party needs to be a movement, growing and building our support and harnessing the enthusiasm of our hugely increased membership to campaign to put the ideas and ideals we all share into practice. We need to be a united movement, a united Labour Party, with strong leadership, able to take on the Tories in opposition and challenge effectively for power at the next General Election.

That’s why I’m standing. I joined the Labour Party for the same reasons our oldest members did and the same reasons our newest members did. To stand up for my values and campaign alongside people who shared them. To make a difference in my own local community and in my country. To challenge inequality, injustice and – yes – Tories. We need to be good at all of that. We need, right now, to be better at all of that.

The values of the NHS – that we pool our resources for the collective good, so that everyone has the care they need and nobody is left behind, regardless of wealth or background – are the values of the Labour Party. We all share them.

I’m here because I want us – all of us – to have the chance not just to talk about our values, but to put those values into practice. Together, we can do it.