Health and business were firmly at the forefront of the agenda at this year’s Labour Conference. With their poll leads increasing rapidly, this event was an opportunity for Labour bigwigs to set out their stall ahead of the next election. Keir Starmer’s centrist approach, a marked change from his predecessor, will be welcomed gladly by businesses as the Labour leader seeks to proverbially park his tanks on the Tories’ lawn. As expected, strong commitments to the NHS were pledged too.
Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting made an interesting admission, giving a flavour perhaps of what industry can expect if Labour gain power at the next election. He wants a cross-governmental approach to health encompassing all departments, believing a coordinated approach will benefit the nation’s health and ensure plans are more efficient.
Mr Streeting began his speech by proudly contrasting the level of care under New Labour to the current Government’s record – needless to say he was scathing in his criticism. He then moved on to Labour’s plan for health. Labour would agree a 10-year plan with the NHS, he said, which was aimed at moving healthcare out of hospitals and into the community.
He then vowed to fix the workforce crisis facing the NHS, reiterating the workforce pledges Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves had already made in her speech. This would be achieved by doubling the number of district nurses qualifying every year, training more than 5,000 new health visitors, providing an additional 10,000 nursing and midwifery placements every year, while also doubling the number of medical school places.
Perhaps of greatest interest to members is Mr Streeting’s desire for Britain to be “leading the revolution in medical science and technology”. He acknowledged the incredible opportunities that technology provides diagnostics and stated that the “biggest prize” is advances in genomics and the revolution in data. This would allow for the transformation of our national model of care from a reactive one to a proactive, preventative model.
Lastly, Mr Streeting promised to improve GP services by making face-to-face appointments mandatory for patients who request them, while also pledging to improve access to GPs, including same-day appointments.
In other developments, Shadow Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary Jonathan Reynolds set out Labour’s vision for businesses in Britain. In his speech, he launched Labour’s Industrial Strategy, intended to grow jobs in the UK and utilise data to bolster national resilience and protect supply chains. Labour would also reform business rates and increase spending targets for research and science.