Labour's key NHS announcements at Conference

The NHS has so far taken the front row, as expected, in this year’s Labour Party conference with a number of key Shadow Cabinet members mentioning extensively the party’s health plans.

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls used part of his Conference speech to highlight Labour as the most trusted party to run the NHS, drawing a sharp distinction with the Conservatives, adding “it’s the oldest truth in British politics: you can never ever trust the Tories with our NHS”. He had previously given an interview with the Guardian, where he hinted that the Party was looking at ways to protect and increase funding for the NHS without raising taxes.

Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham took the torch yesterday when he addressed a conference fringe event to unveil details of his 10-year plan to merge health and social care services, stressing that this would not require another re-organisation but would see existing organisations working more closely together, adding that local government would take a lead in commissioning health services under a Labour administration, in a model that would re-establish “the link between health and education, health and planning, health and leisure, but crucially health and housing”. Meanwhile, Shadow Care Minister Liz Kendall used an interview with Total Politics Magazine to outilne once again the Party’s proposals for a “whole-person”, integrated health and care model.

Which brings us to today and the expected speech by Labour leader Ed Miliband. Advance briefing on the speech has highlighted that a Labour Government will increase funding for the NHS through a windfall tax on tobacco companies (the “sin taxes” that the Party was reportedly examining), as well as a mansion tax for properties worth over £2 million. It is uncertain how well the announcement will go down with Ed Balls, given that he generally appeared not to support tax increases and had ruled out an estates tax earlier this summer.

Elias from PSI: Ed Miliband’s speech this afternoon will end speculation on the Party’s funding plans for the NHS and will likely draw the “battle lines” on the topic of the NHS ahead of the General Election. The Party has committed to making no unfunded proposals, which would mean that a possible Conservative reaction would focus on attempting to dismantle arguments about the expected revenue from such taxes and the feasibility of Labour’s proposals, advancing the argument that Labour “cannot be trusted with the economy”.