Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham has pledged to bring social care ‘into the NHS’ to form a combined health and care service if a Labour government is formed next year.
Speaking at the Labour party conference in Manchester, Burnham said that the integrated service would be built around a person’s physical health, mental health, care and social needs. The reforms would give each patient “one service, one team [and] one person to call” instead of the “fragmented” system that currently exists, he added.
The plans would see the NHS “bringing social care in and lifting it up” with care work no longer being seen as a “dead-end job but part of one workforce working to NHS standards”, Burnham said. Carers would also be given better support, with protected funding for respite breaks and the right to an annual health check, he added.
Burnham told delegates: “The time has come for this party to complete Nye Bevan’s vision and bring social care in to the NHS. That allows us to rebuild our NHS around you and your family. No longer ringing the council for this, the NHS for that. But one service, one team, one person to call.
“An NHS for the whole person, an NHS for carers, an NHS personal to you. At last, a National Health Service keeping you well, not a national sickness service picking up the pieces. And an end, once and for all, to the scandal that is care of older and vulnerable people in England in 2014.”
The speech was light on details of how the plans would work in practice but Burnham said he would write to every household in 2015 to explain what people could expect from the national health and care service.
Labour plans for the reforms to be funded by a £2.5bn ‘Time to Care’ fund announced by party leader Ed Miliband yesterday. The cash would be raised by a new ‘mansion tax’; a levy against tobacco companies, and a clampdown on tax avoidance. Miliband said that the fund’s first priority would be to train 20,000 nurses, 8,000 GPs, 5,000 care workers and 3,000 midwives.
Burnham hinted that a Labour government would consider imposing a levy on private health providers to ensure they “contribute their fair share towards the cost of training” new staff.