ED MILIBAND UNVEILS LABOUR’S GP GUARANTEE: AN APPOINTMENT WITHIN 48 HOURS FOR ALL WHO WANT ONE - AND AN APPOINTMENT ON THE SAME DAY FOR ALL WHO NEED ONE.
Ed Miliband MP, Leader of the Labour Party, today unveils Labour’s new GP guarantee as part of the next government’s plan to improve services for patients, ease the pressure on hospitals, and restore the right values to the heart of the NHS.
Speaking in Manchester, he will underline his determination to put the health service at the centre of Labour’s campaign over the next year, beginning with these local and European elections.
He will attacked David Cameron’s broken promise to protect the NHS and highlight figures showing the proportion of patients getting a GP appointment in 48 hours has fallen from 80 per cent under the last Labour government to just 40 per cent now.
And he will say it is a scandal that fully a quarter of people now cannot get an appointment in the same week, adding to the pressure on A & E departments as well as raising costs across the NHS in England.
Mr Miliband will declare Labour will give all NHS patients contacting their surgery the right to:
• Consult a doctor or a nurse at their local GP surgery on the same day.
• Get an appointment at their surgery on the same day if they need to be seen quickly.
• Have a guaranteed appointment at their GP surgery within 48 hours.
• Book an appointment more than 48 hours ahead with the GP of their choice.
He will say a Labour government will help all surgeries achieve these standards by investing an extra £100 million a year in family doctor practices which could pay for an additional 3 million GP appointments every year.
This will significantly improve care for patients, ease the pressure across the NHS, and could save hundreds of millions of pounds by reducing the number of patients going to A&E departments and avoidable hospital admissions. For instance, studies suggest that a 5 per cent increase in patients seeing their preferred GP could reduce emergency admissions by as many as 159,000 a year – saving the NHS £375 million.
He will show how this new investment in GP services is fully funded by:
• Scrapping the Government’s rules which have led to spending of at least £78 million on unnecessary administration and legal fees because NHS services are now under threat from EU competition law.
• Cutting back the new bureaucracy created by this Government which has seen the costs of three sets of quangos – Monitor, the Trust Development Authority and Commissioning Support Units – spiral with their current spending just on consultants now totalling over £3 million a month.
And Mr Miliband will set out the principles of a plan by which Labour will raise standards, protect services, and restore the values of the NHS over the course of the next parliament:
• Integrating physical health, mental health and social care services.
• Improving care outside hospitals to help deal with conditions as early as possible – before they worsen for patients and cost the NHS more – with measures such as ensuring better GP access.
• Ensuring value for money through our zero-based review and repealing the Government’s competition laws which are wasting precious resources on red tape and lawyers.
On David Cameron’s broken promises…
“In the year leading up to the next General Election and beginning in this local and European campaign the National Health Service needs to be on the centre stage of British politics. People remember the promises David Cameron made at the last election: the airbrushed posters and the three letters he said he cared about most: NHS. But we all know the reality now: the broken promises.
“David Cameron said there would be moratorium on hospital closures. But he has taken on sweeping new powers to close services over the heads of local people. He said there would be no return to people waiting for hours in A&E. But last year more people waited for over four hours in A&E than for any time for a decade. He promised to protect frontline services. But a quarter of walk-in centres have been closed since 2010.
“He promised that people should be able to see their GP “24/7”. But a quarter of the public now say they can’t get an appointment in the same week. It’s a scandal that people are waiting that long, it is not how our NHS, the pride of Britain, should work.
“And he promised there would be no more top down reorganisations. But he spent billions of pounds on a top-down reorganisation that nobody wanted and nobody voted for which has put the principles of markets and competition at the heart of the NHS like never before: A boost for the private companies and competition lawyers; a burden for everyone else.
“Competition, fragmentation, and privatisation - that’s how the Tories see the future of our NHS and that’s why it is going backwards. David Cameron has broken his bond of trust with the British people on the NHS. He has proved the oldest truth in British politics: you can’t trust the Tories with the NHS.”
On the challenges faced by the NHS…
“One of the greatest achievements of our NHS and the 20th Century is now also one of the greatest challenges for our NHS in the 21st Century. It’s great people are living longer - but it means the NHS is having to cope with people in their 80s and 90s that it never had to cope with before. They don’t simply have medical needs, but care needs which the NHS is not used to tackling.
“A hospital can only be as good as the services around it: access to the GP; care in the home; prevention, not just cure. If those things aren’t right, all of the problems end back up on the hospital. There is a greater need than ever before to make sure services are joined up so that people with chronic conditions can continue to live independently at home. And there are ever greater advances in medical awareness and technology: illnesses we once didn’t know existed we now know how to treat. So people’s expectations of care are rightly higher than ever before.
“And we know money will be tight. The last Labour government was able to deliver some very big increases in health service spending. The next Labour government won’t be able to match that scale of increase. We will have to do things in a new way to make our health service better, to save money where we can – and make sure that every single penny is well spent.”
Mr Miliband will set out the three pillars of Labour’s plan to improve, protect and nurture the NHS for generations to come.
“1. Make the NHS a service for mental health, physical health and care for the elderly
“Our plan for the long-term of the NHS starts by making sure that physical health, mental health and social care – services which have stood apart for too long - work together. Just think of the difference it could make. If a simple grab rail is placed in someone’s hall at home, that can stop a fall that could lead to that person breaking a bone, keeping them out of hospital, saving them the pain and the suffering, and saving the NHS thousands of pounds.
“2. Make the NHS a preventive service not just a reactive service, by investing in care where people live.
“I can announce the next Labour government will put in place a new set of standards: a same-day consultation with your GP surgery with a guarantee of a GP appointment if you need it that day, a GP appointment guaranteed for all within 48 hours, and the right to book further ahead with the GP of your choice if your priority is to plan ahead or to see your preferred doctor. This will be better for patients, because they have better access to their GP surgery; better for the NHS, because it will save money currently spent in A&E; and better for Britain, because it is the kind of health service we need.
“3. Put the principles of cooperation and integration, not competition and privatisation, back at the heart of the health service.
“We will restore the fundamental values of the NHS, end David Cameron’s dogmatic obsession with competition and privatisation, and reduce the huge costs that have come about because of it. Private companies can sometimes help bring down waiting lists or provide specialist services that the NHS can’t. But this government thinks competition and privatization should be at the core of the way the NHS works. We’ll go back to the right principles, to the right values. We’ll clamp down on the competition lawyers, bogging down the NHS and distracting from patient need - and we’ll put £100 million of the savings these changes make straight back into improving GP care.”
Savings from David Cameron’s new market bureaucracy
1. Managers and doctors say that David Cameron’s new market framework for the NHS has led to increased costs. Two thirds of commissioners said in a recent survey they had experienced increased commissioning costs as a result of the new regulations (Health Service Journal, 4 April 2014). And even the then Chief Executive of the NHS criticised the new framework, saying: “You’ve got competition lawyers all over the place, causing enormous difficulty…We are getting, in my view, bogged down in a morass of competition law which is causing . . . significant cost in the system” (Sir David Nicholson, Financial Times, 5 November 2013).
2. Commissioners and trusts are spending at least £78m on competition administration and competition lawyers, according to data from Freedom of Information requests by the Labour Party. Hospital trusts across England are spending £31m on assessing and bidding for NHS tenders, and a further £21m on handling competition issues relating to reconfigurations and mergers & acquisitions, while Clinical Commissioning Groups are spending £26m on competitive tendering and external and legal advice relating to competition issues. (This does not include spending on competition by NHS England or by ambulance trusts; nor does it seek to account for the indirect costs of the new competition framework, for example, costs due to delaying service improvements.)
3. The key bodies of David Cameron’s NHS reorganisation are spending £55m on consultancy and Very Senior Managers. Official figures show that spending by Monitor, the Trust Development Authority (TDA), and Commissioning Support Units (CSUs) on consultancy has increased to £3.2m a month, or £38m a year, while these three sets of organisations employ 123 Very Senior Managers, costing £17m. In total, the number of Very Senior Managers in Arms-Length Bodies is currently 398, despite the Government promising that after their NHS reorganisation there would be no more than 100. More generally, spending on the new bureaucracy created by David Cameron’s reorganisation is large, and growing: since 2010/11, Monitor’s budget has more than trebled to £48m; in 2014/15, the TDA’s budget has increased by 66% to £56m; and the income of CSUs is over £700m, £600m of which comes from NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups.
4. Labour will save £100m from repealing David Cameron’s market framework for the NHS and cutting down on the bureaucracy associated with it. This includes saving £50m from spending on competition by repealing the new competition framework, and setting measurable objectives for reducing spending by commissioners and trusts on competition administration and competition lawyers; and saving £46m by removing the role of Monitor as an economic regulator enforcing competition in the NHS (and removing the equivalent functions of the Trust Development Authority and the Competition and Markets Authority, along with related spending) and by reducing spending on consultancy and on Very Senior Managers in Commissioning Support Units, Monitor and the Trust Development Authority.
5. Labour is also consulting with the sector on how to release even larger savings from the new set of organisations created by David Cameron’s reorganisation, including by addressing potential duplication of responsibilities and further reducing bureaucracy.