Labour Party

Labour’s 2024 manifesto.

Labour launched its manifesto 13th June 2024. We have focussed our comments particularly on the ‘Build an NHS fit for the future section’ though. of course, health can only be fully understood in a broader social context so more will come.

This manifesto is a very highly polished document. As with all highly polished objects the observer sometimes sees what they want.


Its absolutely right to say “We must change the NHS so that it becomes not just a sickness service, but able to prevent ill health in the first place” but this raises the issue of the broader social influences on health – good quality housing, food, and the widespread poverty particularly among children in larger families. A number of crucial issues need to be tackled in conjunction with dealing with the NHS crisis.

The manifesto is not detailed and is, at times, unclear: is the NHS just a commissioning organisation or is it the provider of healthcare? If it buys services from private providers there will be less healthcare to go around because they will take a cut for shareholder profit and they will need to use largely NHS trained staff. Our fear is that will result in increasing cases of denial of care which is already happening. And we know that the use of outsourced services deepens inequalities.

There is, understandably, a heavy emphasis on the waiting list crisis; We believe there is little spare capacity in either the public or private sector to cut lists by 40 000 / week. 

We also need to be sure that these waiting list reductions are not at the expense of acute, intensive and complex care. There is no response to the crisis in emergency care in this manifesto. The priority has to be stopping unnecessary death from treatable causes.

We strongly welcome the manifesto commitments on maternity care and the promise to train thousands more midwives as part of the NHS Workforce Plan. It is essential too to retain current staff. Many experienced midwives are leaving.  Its so important the manifesto sets an explicit target to close the Black and Asian maternal mortality gap. This is a shameful scandal which must be resolved rapidly. It will be crucial to see how this target is actioned.

Good to see 40,000 extra appointments per week. But this may not be achievable by ‘sweating’ the workforce. There will be risks to patient safety. We need to encourage many of those who have left the NHS to return by offering reasonable hours and decent pay. Loading NHS professionals with huge student debt is a recipe for a future pay crisis. This has arrived. This needs to be resolved in ‘resetting relations with NHS staff’. Engagement with NHS unions and pay restoration is essential.

Real concern exists about a two tier health service which is quite correctly highlighted in the manifesto. A further issue is the use of physician associates at a time of unemployment of highly qualified health professionals. There are significant concerns that in future in order to to see a qualified professional patients will need to pay to go private. The NHS needs to deliver high quality healthcare for us all.

The pledge to “guarantee a face-to-face appointment for all those who want one and deliver a modern appointment booking system to end the 8am scramble” fails to recognise that this system is part of the systematic ‘demand management’ measures brought in from the USA. This is about systematic denial of care, not an inadequate telephone system!

We absolutely welcome the commitment to ending the workforce crisis across both health and social care. Independent workforce planning, across both is crucial and of course the plans need to be actioned. Social care is a key part of our system. Its has been privatised and asset stripped. We need to reverse this and commit clearly not to repeat it in the health service.

The SHA strongly supports an NHS innovation and adoption strategy. Public services can and do drive innovation and should become industrial leaders themselves.

The promise of state of the art scanners with embedded AI via the ‘Fit For the Future’ fund to double the number of CT and MRI scanners, allowing earlier diagnosis is to be warmly welcomed. The NHS is significantly under-resourced. These systems work well as a tool in the hands of an experienced  professional not as a substitute. This needs to be just a down payment on future investment.

The manifesto puts some emphasis on the NHS app – for those with access it is exceptionally useful. But in the past it has been suggested it might be a gateway to private healthcare too. As a trusted gateway to health information and treatments we can envisage commercial battles to be listed. For healthcare providers this will be the ‘killer app’ on everyone’s phone. We oppose the suggestion, made elsewhere, that it be a gateway to private healthcare.

The commitment that young people presenting to the NHS with gender dysphoria receive appropriate and high-quality care is positive. The lack of quality research in this area must not be an excuse for inaction.

The promise to take pressures off GPs by creating Community Pharmacist Prescribing Service may give rise to a hollow laugh among our pharmacist members. This service is massively overstretched and largely run for profit.

Again the promise for 700,000 more urgent dental appointments and to recruit new dentists is welcome but it may not have a big impact. NHS dentists see about 9,000,000 adults each year and 6,500,000 children.

The manifesto rightly points to the urgency of dealing with the current social care crisis – it is strong on aspiration but weak on specifics. A National Care Service with appropriately trained and paid workforce is needed now. Not when a consensus emerges!

The commitment to recruit 8,500 new staff over 5 years to treat mental health problems in children and adults seems to be a very modest proposal. The wave of mental illness is a product of a society where huge pressures and stresses are being placed on individuals. Until this is resolved many more resources will need to be directed into this area.

The call for public health measures to tackle smoking, obesity, gambling and online harm is welcome as is the recognition of the huge disparities in life expectancy and healthy life expectancy across Britain and even within cities. It also needs to be said that improvements in life expectancy have stalled – in some cases it is going backwards. 14 years of Tory rule have left us in an unparalleled situation.

Past and ongoing neglect of women’s health is also correctly identified – this injustice needs to be righted. The prospect of ending new cases of HIV by 2030 is hugely welcome.

The NHS needs investment. There is no way around it. The reluctance to raise taxes significantly or borrow combined with the continued practice of  outsourcing condemns the NHS to continued fragmentation and decline. It seems from recent research that a high percentage of outsourcing and PFI contracts are due to end during the next 5 years.  We need a commitment to bring this back in house. 

The response to the collapse of NHS infrastructure, a revival of Boris Johnson’s much derided 40 new ‘hospitals’ programme, is simply inadequate.

The final sentence of the manifesto in this section may be the most important. Labour will stop the chaos in our health and care services, turn the page, and reform them in line with the principles of the NHS that Labour founded. We hope to see the actions to match this worthy promise.

The Socialist Health Association, with allies, won an overwhelming vote at the 2022 Labour conference to reinstate the NHS as the provider of health services rather than be a mere commissioning organisation. In the 2023 Labour Conference extraordinary measures were taken to sideline the SHA position. It is essential we campaign to win a Labour Government but that is just a first step. The campaign to defend the NHS inside and outside parliament will need to continue. See for more. LABOUR‘s positions below via the NPF process.

  • Build an NHS fit for the future by transforming health and care services to reflect the fundamental principles of universalising the best care for all based on need, not pay
  • Speed up treatment, harnessing life sciences and technology to reduce preventable illness, cut health inequalities and meet the health challenges of the 21st century
  • Always protect our NHS as a publicly-funded service, free at the point of use, and will secure healthcare for all
  • Ensure integrated care systems (ICSs) are empowered to act as a bulwark against privatisation alongside NHS England and the Department for Health and Social Care
  • Make the NHS the preferred provider of commissioned healthcare services and will end the reliance on outsourcing and cronyism
  • End the two-tier system that currently sees patients paying to go private or waiting for years in pain for planned NHS treatment
  • Use spare capacity in the independent sector to treat NHS patients and bring waiting lists down.

    Tackle NHS staffing issues
  • Double medical school places to 15,000 a year
  • Train 10,000 new nurses & midwives a year
  • Double the number of district nurses qualifying every year
  • Train 5,000 new health visitors a year
  • Produce independent projections of staff numbers the UK needs to ensure our workforce is fit for a future 
  • Work with health staff and their trade unions to review existing training pathways and explore new entry routes to a career in the NHS
  • Recognise that the tax treatment of doctors’ pensions has discouraged some senior clinicians from continuing in the workforce [and] introduce a targeted scheme for senior doctors across the UK to address retention issues

    Reform NHS services
  • Use spare capacity in independent sector to treat NHS patients to bring waiting lists down
  • Support effective and sustainable delivery of general practice to improve access and continuity of care, and to cut health inequalities
  • Bring back the family doctor by providing incentives for GP practices to improve their continuity of care offer 
  • Improve routes for referral to specialist services in the community, such as allowing opticians to refer into hospitals and greater self-referral in areas where it is clinically appropriate such as physiotherapy
  • Improve data-sharing and portability in health and care to join up services, while guaranteeing that people’s health data is safeguarded and always used ethically
  • Have a strategy to ensure that women and girls around the country have access to safe, high-quality healthcare that supports their wellbeing and will address ongoing systemic failures to meet their health and care needs
  • Act to end the Black maternal mortality gap
  • Ensure government and the public sector focus on delivering better outcomes for those on lower incomes and make narrowing and eliminating inequality through the health system – and all our public services – a priority
  • Improve mental health services
  • Treat mental health as seriously as physical health and ensure genuine parity of esteem
  • Publish the first ever long-term, whole-government plan to improve mental health outcomes
  • Provide treatment within a month of referral by recruiting thousands of new mental health professionals
  • Work with the NHS to develop and implement new NHS targets for mental health services in England and ensure reporting standards improve
  • Ensure patients’ and families’ voices are central to any national assessment of the safety of mental health services
  • Put children at the heart of our mental health plan
  • Give every young person access to a specialist mental health professional at school
  • Ending unacceptable waits. Labour has a plan to drive down waiting times and get patients diagnosed earlier – with an extra two million operations, scans and appointments in the first year. We will pay NHS staff properly for overtime to work evening and weekend shifts to bust the backlog.
  • Dentistry rescue plan. Labour will deliver a dentistry rescue plan to provide 700,000 extra appointments each year. We will introduce a targeted recruitment fund to get more dentists into the communities that need them most. And we will reform the NHS dentistry contract so that everyone who needs an NHS dentist can get one.
  • A neighbourhood health service. At the heart of Labour’s reforms will be a plan to move care closer to communities. The NHS must become a neighbourhood health service as much as a National Health Service – supported by cutting-edge treatment and technology, to prevent illness. We will trial neighbourhood health centres bringing together family doctors, district nurses, care workers, physiotherapists and mental health specialists under one roof.
  • Technology and early diagnosis. Labour’s ‘fit for the future fund’ will double the number of state-of-the-art CT and MRI scanners to ensure early diagnosis. We will put technology at a patient’s fingertips so they can take control of their own medicine, appointments and health needs. At home tests for kidney disease that can send results to your smartphone; AI used to diagnose cancer from scans because we know it saves money and helps reduce missed cancer diagnoses.
  • Better public health. We need proper public health measures to keep our children healthy, like banning the promotion of vaping and junk food to young people and supporting an incremental ban on smoking. Our children’s health is too important not to take action.
  • Mental health. Labour will recruit 8,500 additional mental health staff to drive down waiting lists, funded through closing tax loopholes. Labour will make sure every young person will have access to a specialist mental health professional at school. With Labour’s Young Futures plan, every community will have an open access mental health hub for young people (11-24), providing early intervention through drop-in services. The schools’ element is paid for by ending tax breaks for private schools. The staffing is paid for by abolishing tax loopholes for private equity managers.

In addition Labour has made the promises below.

In-source public services

  • Bring about the biggest wave of insourcing of public services in a generation
  • Ensure all outsourced services are transparent, accountable for delivery and subject to the Freedom of Information Act
  • Examine public services that have been outsourced as part of a drive to improve quality. In most cases, the best time to achieve value for money for publicly-run provision will be when existing contracts expire or are broken through a failure to deliver
  • Reinstate and strengthen the last Labour government’s two-tier code to end unfair two-tiered workforces

The SHA expressed the following concerns about NPF policies which were at varience with motions won at Labour conference.

SHA response to NPF statements. Please click above.