Labour Party Conference – Health Policy Takes Centre Stage
23 September 2014, Blog
Mihir Magudia, Director at JBP, provides his immediate thoughts about the direction of Labour’s health policy
In a speech focused on improving standards of living for people of middle and lower income, Ed Miliband spoke about Labour’s plan for the NHS.
He announced his ambition to create a world class health service and committed to large increases in nurses, GPs, care workers and other health professionals. This additional spending would be supported by clamping down on tax loopholes, a levy on houses worth over £2m and a windfall tax on tobacco companies. This will create a 2.5bn “time to care” fund for the NHS.
Ed Miliband reiterated his plan to scrap the Health and Social Care Act. It is not clear what this means and what might be retained from the Act, but the focus seems to be on the privatisation of the NHS and competition for frontline services.
Labour are opposed to allowing non state owned providers of health and social care services compete with state owned operators, and Miliband clearly feels that this is a major issue for Labour’s election campaign. Indeed reports have suggested that the Shadow Cabinet have been presented with polling data clearly showing that the NHS is at the top of voters’ concerns.
Depending on their sector, the changes that Labour are proposing could have a massive impact for private and charitable healthcare organisations.
Assuming that the changes proposed are compliant with European competition law, we may see a return to the preferred provider policy of the last Labour Government.
This could lead to limitations on the contracts that are open to non-state owned organisations and would fundamentally alter the role that the private and charitable sectors play in the NHS. A complete scrapping of the Health and Social Care Act would demand a massive expansion of state owned services and could cause a period of paralysis in the NHS as it struggles with yet another reorganisation.
In the coming months it will be crucial that private and charitable healthcare organisations engage with Andy Burnham and his team to make sure that they understand the huge contribution to the health service that they make. Yet more uncertainty beckons – for patients and providers alike.
Mihir Magudia is Director at JBP specialising in the health sector