Miliband's Manchester Speech, launching Labour's NHS and Primary Care Policy

On Monday 12 May, Labour Leader Ed Miliband, unveiled One Nation Labour’s newest policies regarding the NHS, and those which they will focus on in the year up until the next general election. 

In his speech, Mr Miliband informs the audience that he has recently visited a hospital, and seen patients and clinicians to find out the issues affecting them there and then. He mentions how proud people are of the National Health Service, and he criticizes the current Government’s record.  

First and foremost, Miliband has promised greater access to primary care. He has said that everyone will be: 

• entitled to a same-day consultation with their GP surgery
• guaranteed GP appointment if you need it that day
• guaranteed GP appointment for all within 48 hours
• given a new right to book further ahead if you want a guarantee that you can see your own doctor

He outlined that some of the costs for these standards could be met by repealing the NHS and Social Care Bill, which will save "at least £100 million. 

Mr Miliband has also focused on integrating physical health, mental health and social care services, improving care outside of hospitals, and ensuring value for money via a zero-based review.  Mr Miliband stated that only 40 per cent of people get a GP appointment within 48 hours, and indicated that a future Labour Government would put in a "new set of standards" for access to primary care. 

Press coverage of the speech has mainly focused on Mr Miliband's promises around access to GPs.  

The Guardian has called this a “bold promise” and one which “is likely to be unpopular with doctors”. Although the Chairman of the Royal College of GPs, Maureen Baker, said to the BBC that  Mr Miliband's announcement was "extremely welcome", adding that "it must not be another 'sticking plaster' solution but part of a broader, long-term, shift in investment".

The Guardian points to David Cameron’s pledge as a comparison, and dubs it the “rival offer”. In April Cameron promised 7.5 million people in England would benefit from increased access to GPs, including seven-day opening and 8am–8pm appointments. The opening hours are to be extended using the £50m GP access fund. 

BBC news has quoted a Conservative spokesman who stated that  "This is an unfunded, pie-in-the-sky policy that Labour can't pay for and doctors can't deliver. More unfunded spending would mean more borrowing and more taxes to pay for it.” 
However, HSJ has quoted Miliband’s speech – pointing out that a Labour administration would spend less on Monitor, the NHS Trust Development Authority and Commissioning Support Units. Despite the fact that Monitor is set to see its budget boosted by 19 per cent this year. HSJ has also said that Labour quoted their research showing roughly two thirds of CCG leaders reported increased commissioning costs as a result of competition regulations. Funding may be taken from this pool. 

The Independent has voiced critics claims, stating that, “when Labour was in office, the 48-hour target meant that patients could not get the appointments they wanted. Many surgeries did not allow patients to book advance appointments. The 2010 GP patient survey said a quarter of patients who wanted to book a slot more than two days in advance were unable to do so.” 

Press Links can be found here: 

• BBC News
• The Guardian
• The Independent
• Health Service Journal


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