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Press release

The King's Fund response to Wes Streeting's speech at the Labour Party conference

Responding to Wes Streeting, Labour's Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary’s  speech at the Labour Party conference, Sally Warren, Director of Policy at The King’s Fund, said:

'There are multiple crises across health and care, and it is clear a change of approach is needed. National affection for the NHS has at times hindered improvements to health, particularly when important services such as public health and social care have been overlooked as political energy is expended on acute hospital services.

‘A greater emphasis on primary and community services has the potential to catch illness earlier and provide patients with more options beyond having to turn up at over-stretched hospitals. This refocusing towards community services has been a political ambition for decades, yet the rhetoric has not translated to reality. Making good on the commitment to bolster community services will mean grappling with knotty issues such as making careers in community services more attractive, improving outdated GP and community health buildings, and shifting the balance of investment away from hospitals toward community services.

'Across its conference, Labour has announced some welcome measures including additional funding to help reduce soaring waiting lists. Some hospitals have made progress in addressing the number of people waiting for care by offering planned treatment and outpatient clinics at evenings and weekends and there are merits to Labour’s plan to scale up this approach. Of course, the policy relies on the willingness of staff to work overtime at a point when many health care professionals are demoralised and burnt-out, but the approach has been shown to work and could help to bring down waiting times in the short term.

‘While Labour has committed to boost the pay of social care staff, it has yet to set out how it would introduce long overdue reform of the sector. A lack of action by successive governments has led social care services to spiral into crisis. If Labour is serious about putting social care on a sustainable footing and ensuring people’s care needs are met, then it needs to put more flesh on the bones of its plans for reform.’

Notes to editors

For further information, or to request an interview, please contact the Press and Public Affairs team on 020 7307 2585.

The King's Fund is an independent charity working to improve health and care in England. We help to shape policy and practice through research and analysis; develop individuals, teams and organisations; promote understanding of the health and social care system; and bring people together to learn, share knowledge and debate. Our vision is that the best possible health and care is available to all.

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