Ed Miliband launches Labour's new 'NHS Check' campaign

15 May 2012

ed milibandEd Miliband today launched Labour’s new “NHS Check” campaign to allow doctors, nurses and patients to reveal the damage done to front-line services by Government free-market, free-for-all in the health service.

To go to the campaign website please click here.

Ed Miliband MP, Leader of the Labour Party, said:


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I want to start by paying tribute to Britain’s nurses.

Whether in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales, in the public, private or voluntary sector, you make an incredible contribution to our country.

I also want to thank all the healthcare assistants represented here for the work you do as part of the nursing team.

You are there at the end of people’s lives and at the beginning.

Every person in Britain has their own story about your professionalism, care and compassion.

I’ve seen myself the care you provide at the saddest of times.

When my dad was dying in hospital, the nurses provided great care to him and great comfort to us.

I’ve also seen it at the most magical of times.

When my sons were born and we were back on the ward, the nurses and midwives there were superb in looking after my wife and my sons, and looking out for a proud but nervous new father like me.

I have seen a fleeting glimpse, as patients do, of how hard your job is.

That task of combining compassion and kindness, with great skill and knowledge and hard manual work too.

That combination of physical, emotional and mental work.

So let me say what the whole country thinks.

You are the backbone of the NHS.

You represent everything that’s great about public service.

You are the best of Britain.

Thank you.

Something politicians don’t say enough.
And thank you too to the nurses who work beyond our NHS.
In the community, in schools, even on the battlefield.

It was great to see three nurses all of them RCN members - honoured last month for their incredible work treating wounded soldiers in Afghanistan.

Thank you to them - and all of our Defence Medical Services - for their courage.

Let us applaud their service.

Let me say this.

I know recently there have been some disturbing stories about failures in standards of care.

I know those stories disturb you more than anyone.

But let’s say what you know, what the British people know:

The overwhelming majority of nurses do a phenomenal job.

And we must never forget it.

Now, I know you’ve heard the standard politician’s speech to nurses before.

First, we tell you how important you are.

Then we lecture you about how to do your job.

But I’m not here today to lecture you, but to listen and learn.

To understand how we can work with you to support what you all came into nursing to do.

Just like we worked together when Labour was last in government.

We made the extra investment to increase the number of nurses.

It’s easy to forget now, but fifteen years ago people were saying the NHS was an old-fashioned and out-of-date idea.

People said the idea of a service free at the point of use had had its day.

You proved them wrong.

We proved them wrong.

Delivering the lowest waiting times in NHS history.

Dramatic improvements in standards of care.

And the highest patient satisfaction in NHS history.

You showed, we showed, that the NHS is not just right for our grandparents’ generation, it is right for our grandchildren too.

And I am proud we did that together.

Partnership between government and nurses matters.

It matters, too, when it comes to pay and pensions.

Yes, there are difficult decisions to be made to make sure pensions are sustainable for the future.

But the right way forward is to set pensions by negotiation not confrontation.

And let me say this.

A national pay framework is right for the NHS.

One of the biggest challenges facing the NHS is health inequalities - different health outcomes between rich and poor parts of the country.

Paying people less to work in the poorest areas of the country will not narrow that gap.

It will make it worse.

We’ve said that when it comes to difficult choices between pay and jobs, we would prioritise jobs.

But a national pay framework is fair to staff and is more likely to control costs.

I know from my conversations with nurses, it’s not just pay and pensions that are concerning you at the moment.

It’s your ability to do your job.

Last week I was hearing from a group of nurses in London.

One of the strongest messages I took away was that the NHS works far better when nurses are influencing how things work.

As my party puts together our ideas for the future, I want to do it in partnership with you.

The Prime Minister has chosen a different course.

He’s been lecturing nurses recently on how to listen to patients.

I must say, I really wouldn’t have had him down as an expert on listening.

Three years ago, he came to your conference and told you:

“There will be no more of those pointless re-organisations that aim for change but instead bring chaos...”

...Just before imposing the biggest top-down reorganisation in NHS history.

And it doesn’t just affect this Prime Minister.

It undermines all politicians when he does something like that.

I want to pay tribute to the RCN and to you, Peter, for the campaign you led against the Bill.

You tried to engage with the Government.

You expressed the concerns that nurses were expressing to you.

You warned the Government of the risks it was running:

Resources being diverted away from the frontline, and nurses were right.

Patients waiting longer for treatment, and nurses were right.

Disruption and fragmentation. Nurses were right.

But the Government refused to listen.

It ploughed on regardless.

They have been acting like they are the masters, not the servants, of the NHS.

They are not the masters.

Not this Government.

Not any government.

It’s owned by the people of Britain.

Our health service is owned by patients, professionals and the people.

And their voice - your voice deserves to be heard.

And any government forgets that at its peril.

I can’t promise that we will always agree about everything.

But what I will never do is what this Government did: insult you by dismissing you as just a “vested interest”.

You were not a vested interest.

You were the defenders of the National Health Service.

We’ve been clear: we would stop this reorganisation and use the money to protect the jobs of nurses right across this country.

And what will Labour do if we win the next election in 2015?

Not another top-down reorganisation.

We would put an end to the damage of the Bill and repeal the free-market free-for-all in our NHS.

But my party isn’t going to wait until then before we do something to protect the NHS.

We’re going to be asking Health & Well-being Boards to act as the last line of defence in our NHS.

Resisting the creep of charges for treatment

Promoting collaboration over competition

Putting patients before profits.

And today, we’re launching a new campaign, NHS Check, which will allow staff and patients who are concerned about what’s happening to get in touch with us and tell us what they’re seeing in hospitals, clinics and GP surgeries.

So please go to yournhs.com and talk to us so we can all hold this Government to account.

My party wants to work with NHS staff and patients everywhere to hold the Government to account for what’s going on.

What’s so frustrating about the upheaval that’s going on now is that it’s a million miles away from the change the NHS really needs.

The NHS needs service change not structural change.

We know that we are an ageing society.

People are living longer, and that’s a good thing.

But it brings big challenges for the health service.

You know better than anybody that the health service needs to change.

But not change which brings fragmentation.

Not change which splits the NHS apart.

Change which helps the NHS to work together.

Integration.

The NHS of the future will have to be different.
That means bringing health and social care together, to provide security for our parents and grandparents whether they are in hospital or in their own home.

That means tackling the last taboo of healthcare in this country – mental health, which affects millions of families, rich and poor.

Above all, that means stopping people having to go to hospital in the first place by bringing services to people’s homes and communities.

That’s what real service change should be about.

Redesigning services to meet the needs of patients.

Nurses are essential to every one of those challenges.

Including the work of specialist nurses.

And I know the concern that that is being increasingly underrated in the NHS.

Let me say this about our NHS.

It is the institution that the British people are proudest of - and rightly so.

In a country where we are used to the values of markets, competition and money, it is based on different values.

The values which brought me into politics.

Values which are the reason that I’m standing on this stage today.

Values of care, compassion, fairness to all.

We all stand equal in the eyes of the NHS.

But it is not just the fairest system, it is the most efficient.

Too often we talk about the NHS as if it was merely a cost, a drain, an expense.

The NHS is not a burden on the taxpayer.

It is the most productive, value for money, brilliant asset that this country has.

Britain would not be getting out of bed in the morning without the NHS.

As a country, lets celebrate the values of the NHS.

Let’s celebrate the people who work in the NHS.

Let’s celebrate that we have the NHS.

And let’s together make sure we protect and improve it for the future.