Former health secretary Andy Burnham voiced his desire to create England’s “first fully-integrated national health and care service”, as he launched the campaign manifesto for his bid to become Greater Manchester’s metro mayor.
If elected, the Labour candidate has vowed to put an end to the “callous culture” of social care provision in the region, by companies “that are profiteering, in my view, on the backs of some of the most vulnerable people in society”.
Greater Manchester is one of six regions that will be holding metro mayor elections on 4 May.
Mr Burnham’s manifesto was developed after consultation with the public, and includes plans for transport, housing, skills and the wide-ranging ambition to boost the prospects of young people.
His proposed national health and care service would provide users with a “single point of contact for all their care needs” and allow GPs to offer patients a range of non-traditional support, including counseling.
And the manifesto states: “Over time, we will bring social care staff into the NHS family, with proper training and support and more opportunities for career progression.
“We will require care workers to be paid the living wage and end the business models that rely on exploitative zero hours contracts.”
Mr Burnham, who is the MP for the region’s Leigh constituency, showed the launch audience a work rota that had been given to him by a migrant care worker – a member of UNISON.
The unnamed woman’s working day lasted from 7.30am to just past midnight and included 48 separate visits – one of which was scheduled for two minutes.
Her next shift started just three hours later, at 3am.
“That is the reality of social care in our city region and, indeed, around the country,” Mr Burnham said.
“And if that doesn’t bring a sense of utter despair to us all, then I really don’t know what should. Because not only are the people receiving these visits not being properly cared for, but the people providing them are not being properly cared for either.”
The first tranche of metro mayors will be in elected in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, Sheffield City Region, Tees Valley, West Midlands and West of England.
Working alongside combined authorities, they will exercise a significant amount of power over such areas as housing, transport and, in the case of Greater Manchester, health and the police.
And UNISON is working to ensure that public services are at the forefront of people’s minds during the mayoral elections.
For his part, Mr Burnham paid tribute to the union for its campaigning role on social care.
“The union has been a lone voice at times, campaigning against the poor quality of social care and particularly domiciliary care,” he said.
“UNISON brought through the Ethical Care Charter, which was the first serious attempt to arrest and reverse the plummeting standards of social care in our country.”
In the next issue of U Magazine, we speak with Andy Burnham and mayoral candidates in the West Midlands and Tees Valley.
Photograph: Steve Forrest