Revitalise the NHS

Labour conference adopted policy of renationalising the NHS – taking back into public ownership and control all the services handed to the private sector by the Tories. I want to see that in the next manifesto. But it can only be the start.

As an ageing society, we’ll have to spend a bigger percentage of our GDP on health and social care – and inevitably the right will begin to attack the very ethos of free public healthcare.

That’s why we need to go beyond “Defend the NHS”: we have to revitalise it, to protect its core values of universal, free healthcare at the point of need for the next century.

We need a modernised health service focused on promoting health and wellbeing for all. So that health and social are workers can move from crisis management to the kind of 21st century system they dream of running.

That means more money across the board: for primary care; for more staff; to provide universal access to elderly social care, with a workforce on the wages they deserve; and access to mental health services for all who need them.

It means setting mandatory public health targets – not just for local authorities but for industry sectors – and building in the Marmot indicators (on child mortality, wellbeing, decent housing etc) into all aspects of government policy.

Twenty years ago, Gordon Brown ordered a major upgrade to health spending – but the pointless marketisation of the NHS, plus massive failures of NHS IT – squandered the opportunities outlined in the Wanless Report. This time we have to do it right.

That’s why I want to make free universal healthcare, social care, dentistry and mental health services the top priority for Labour.

And there’s no avoiding this: we will need a strongly redistributive tax system to pay for it. And we’ll need to put people in control of their own health data, not predatory corporations.

The NHS could become an engine of redistribution – if we have the courage to tax wealth, global monopolies and big corporations to pay for it.

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