Andy Burnham told a receptive audience at the party’s annual conference in Manchester that the time had come for Labour to complete the vision of Nye Bevan – seen as the architect of the NHS – and “bring social care in to the NHS”.
But, as with his leader’s speech the previous day, Burnham focused on healthcare, social care for older people, and carers, and appeared to ignore the needs of working-age disabled people, although he did talk about “the scandal that is care of older and vulnerable people in England in 2014” and the “shameful scenes from care homes on our TV screens of people being shouted at or abused”.
He only mentioned disabled people once during his speech, and even then only in relation to carers, when referring to “parents of children with disabilities”.
He repeated the social care messages he delivered at last year’s conference, when he talked almost exclusively about the needs of older people and told a fringe meeting that the issues concerning working-age disabled adults were “very difficult” and that there needed to be “a better debate about that”.
Burnham spoke this week of ensuring that the NHS was “cemented at the core of every community, so that it can then begin the job of bringing social care in and lifting it up”.
He said the goal of this new “national health and care service” would be “to keep you in your own home, safe and well”, with “one person to call to get help so no longer telling the same story over and over again”, and “no longer ringing the council for this, the NHS for that, but one service, one team, one person to call”.
He also promised “a care plan personal to you and your family”.
But as with last year’s conference and his 2012 speech, there was no suggestion of how this would be paid for, and no detail about how it would be achieved.
There was also a promise from his party’s leader, Ed Miliband, to fund 3,000 more midwives, 5,000 more care workers, 8,000 more GPs and 20,000 more nurses, funded by clamping down on tax avoidance, a new mansion tax, and raising “extra resources from the tobacco companies”.
At a fringe meeting organised by the Care and Support Alliance, Liz Kendall, the shadow minister for care and older people, told campaigners: “No doubt you will all say, ‘Where is the extra money?’
“I would say you need to put pressure on all of the parties as we write our manifestos to say this is a top political issues, this is a key priority, and put pressure on us to deliver, and I will welcome that.”
She added: “I think the ultimate vision is for all the pots of money to be brought together so they can help people live the lives that they want.
“In the end, the way we solve this is to give people the power and control over that money and support so they can determine how best to spend the public money to help them live the life that they want.”
25 September 2014