Better pay, safer staffing and fully funded training pledged at health conference

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth launches triple promise and warns: ‘The future of the NHS is at stake in this election’

A Labour government would scrap the 1% health cap, keep the NHS bursary and legislate for save staffing levels, shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth told UNISON health workers today.

Speaking on the final day of union’s health conference in Liverpool, the Labour front bencher launched his party’s three-point pledge – better pay, safer staffing and fully funded training.

Mr Ashworth thanked the full range of health care workers “for your dedication, self-sacrifice, the extraordinary effort every day which is often, literally, the difference between life and death.”

But under the Conservative government, he said, “you are ignored, insulted, under-valued, overworked, underpaid.”

A Labour government would scrap the 1% pay cap that has been at the top of so many debates in Liverpool this week, he told delegates.

It would also reintroduce the NHS bursary, which the current government intends to replace with tuition fees this autumn – are already helping to create a critical nursing shortage.

And it would legislate to ensure legally enforced safe staffing levels, another key UNISON issue.

In a speech that won a standing ovation, Mr Ashworth said that Labour’s desire was “not for the basic health service, but for the very best health service.”

In contrast, he said that Prime Minister Theresa May was failing to acknowledge the “Tory-manufactured NHS crisis” that was leaving the service “over-stretched, under-staffed and under threat.”

A Labour government would:

  • scrap the pay cap and put pay back in the hands of an independent pay review body;
  • reintroduce the NHS bursary;
  • axe the health and social care act and reinstate the secretary of state’s responsibility for the NHS;
  • put health care professionals, staff and patients on the boards of any organisation providing NHS care – private companies currently providing services that refuse to comply would lose their contracts;
  • introduce voting rights for staff on NHS boards;
  • integrate health and social care;
  • implement a “long-overdue” investment in mental health care and give “true parity of esteem between mental and physical health”;
  • make the NHS a priority in Brexit negotiations, with an immediate guarantee of all European NHS staff’s their right to remain.

“The future of the NHS is a stake at this election,” Mr Ashworth said. And, should the Conservatives win again, he warned his audience “not to get old, not to get sick.”