This site is intended for health professionals only

In full: Burnham’s speech to 2013 Labour Party Conference

Andy Burnham MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, speaking to Labour Party Annual Conference 2013 in Brighton, said:

‘Thank you Aneira.

65, still going strong - just like our NHS.

If Nye could see you now; how proud he would be.

You made history - and today, Conference, so can we.

It was this Conference, eighty years ago, voting to create a National Health Service.

In one day, Labour changed a century.

Today, let’s do it again.

Find our own spirit of ‘45.

NHS values are Labour values and they are the country’s values.

For 65 years, they have served us well.

But a new century demands new thinking.

Care of older people is not what anyone would want it to be.

So today we set Labour’s new mission: to make it right.

This Conference can complete Bevan’s vision.

Unite the NHS with social care.

Just imagine.

One service looking after the whole person - physical, mental and social.

The NHS of the 21st century.

A national health and care service, based on people before profits.

What a way to mark the 65th anniversary and what a contrast with this Government.

They have spent all year running it down.

And we know why, don’t we Conference?

They are softening it up to sell it off.

Since April, all NHS services forced out to the market.

And look at what’s happened: major contracts for NHS work won by Tory donors.

Donors who bankrolled Andrew Lansley when he was planning his bill.

And you can see why.

Huge private health firms, run by people who have donated £1.5 million to the Tories, winning £1.5 billion in NHS contracts.

Who gave this Prime Minister permission to sell the NHS to his friends?

Nobody. He just did it, as born-to-rule Tories do.

Enough to make your blood boil.

NHS contracts for Tory donors.

Conference, the real scandal in party funding and we won’t let them get away with it.

Cameron the conman, who posed as a friend of the NHS to get elected, has turned it into his own Health Lottery, where his mates can’t lose and patients can’t win.

Where a £1 Tory donation wins £1,000 in NHS contracts.

Where patients are left paying thousands as NHS care is restricted.

Thousands of older people denied cataract, hip and knee operations simply because of where they live - a postcode lottery running riot.

And get ready for the next scandal.

NHS hospitals, pushed by Mr Cameron to earn half their income from private patients, charging for beds left empty by these restrictions.

Conference, think about that.

NHS hospitals, built with public money, charging people for treatments that used to be free - and still free to people living elsewhere.

NHS staff turned over to priority care of those who can pay or are in such pain they have to dig deep.

Suffer or pay - the same old choice in a two-tier Tory NHS.

Conference, we’ve got to wake people up to what is happening.

The first steps towards an American healthcare system.

English hospitals now asking for credit cards before they give care.

Cameron’s Health Lottery - the most audacious attack ever on NHS values.

And coming to your community soon - courtesy of Mr Clegg.

These two, Cameron and Clegg, have brought the NHS to the brink with a re-organisation no-one wanted and no-one voted for.

I heard last week the Lib Dems promising more memory clinics.

I think they should have opened the first at their own conference.

They were struggling, weren’t they, to remember what they’ve inflicted on people?

What do NHS privatisation, tuition fees and the bedroom tax have in common?

None in any manifesto and all brought in with Lib Dem votes.

Memory loss is affecting the Tories too.

Problems in the NHS all someone else’s fault - “coasting” hospitals, uncaring nurses, lazy GPs.

As if the biggest re-organisation in history never happened.

Well, Mr Cameron, you can’t airbrush these facts away.

This year - the worst in a decade in A&E.

1 million people waiting more than four hours.

The first summer A&E crisis in living memory.

All on your watch and all because you wouldn’t listen to the doctors, nurses, midwives and patients who pleaded with you to stop the re-organisation.

You gave six-figure pay-offs to two and a half thousand managers and P45s to five and a half thousand nurses.

Money stripped out of the NHS front-line, leaving wards short-staffed and nurses over-stretched, when report after report recommends safe staffing levels.

You ignore them. We won’t.

Conference, Labour is committed to safe staffing levels, based on expert advice, learning from where things have gone wrong.

And this is the big difference between us and them.

Where the NHS falls short, Labour will learn and make it better.

The Tories exploit failings to undermine the NHS itself.

What kind of Government asks for a report on troubled hospitals only to deliberately exaggerate the findings?

What kind of Government spins against the NHS it is supposed to be responsible for?

What kind of people scare patients unnecessarily and denigrate staff in struggling hospitals just to pursue their own political agenda?

Conference, the country can see what’s going on.

The NHS under sustained attack.

Patients anxious; staff battered and bruised.

People ask: who is going to stand up for the NHS?

Now, more than ever, the NHS needs people who have faith in it to come forward and fight for it.

And that’s what we will do.

Labour leading the fight for the NHS we created; you, me, all of us.

On every doorstep. On every street.

Starting this Sunday in Manchester outside Tory conference.

I will be proud to join thousands defending the NHS.

And I make this appeal to anybody watching today who is worried about the NHS: join us.

The more people that turn up, the louder this message will be heard:

Prime Minister, you do not have our permission, anybody’s permission, to put the NHS up for sale.

But we need to do more.

Let’s give back what these Tories have taken away.


The hope that the NHS has a future as a public not private service.

And it does.

For too long, market forces have been allowed to advance into the NHS.

Well no more. We will make a clear break with that.

If we carry on down this path, the market will devour everything precious about the NHS - those values the country celebrated at London 2012.

So let’s nail our colours to the mast.

Giving people a proper choice - Labour for a public NHS against Cameron’s market.

For integration over fragmentation, compassion over competition, people before profits.

And you know what? People will be with us.

Because belief in a public NHS runs right across the political spectrum, uniting left, right and centre.

They have seen what market tendering has done to social care.

They don’t want the NHS to go the same way.

NHS values are the country’s values and they are Labour values.

I am not neutral about who provides NHS services.

I will never see the NHS as an empty blue-and-white brand to be used by any qualified provider.

I believe in the public NHS and what it represents.

I know that people who work in it give more of themselves because it’s based on people not profits.

If politicians can’t see that, they’ll never understand the true value of the NHS and they’ll never understand NHS staff.

NHS values are Labour values - and now we apply them afresh to the 21st century.

Conference, I have never been clearer about anything in my life than this: we will never, ever get the care we aspire to for our own parents, or indeed anyone’s parents, from a malnourished, minimum-wage social care system dishing out care in 15 minute slots where there’s barely time to make a cup of tea let alone exchange a meaningful word, where over 300,000 care workers in England are on zero-hours contracts.

Britain, surely, is better than this.

How can anyone who doesn’t have the security of knowing what they will earn one week to the next, pass on a sense of security to those they care for?

Looking after someone else’s mum or dad is the highest calling a person can answer.

But society says it’s the lowest.

Wrong, wrong, wrong on every level.

And it gets worse.

Because of this failure to support people properly at home, older people are being driven towards hospital in ever greater numbers.

In the last two years, a 66 percent increase in the number of people aged 90 and over coming in to A&E via blue-light ambulance.

That’s 100,000 very frail and frightened people in the backs of ambulances speeding through our cities and towns.

Surely Britain can be better than this?

And when they arrive, hospitals unable meet all the needs of people at that age.

So they go downhill and we hear those stories of older people lost on the acute ward, disorientated and dehydrated.

Conference, we will do better than this.

The public know it’s wrong and they look to Labour to change it.

Our new mission - to care for everyone’s mum and dad in the way we wish for our own.

By uniting social care with the NHS, we take the first meaningful step on the road to good care for all people in the 21st century.

Labour taking away the fear of old age.

Whole Person Care - for children and adults with disabilities too.

And at last a service that looks after people who care.

For too long, too much has been asked of family carers.

Left fending for themselves, ground down, telling the same story to everyone who comes through the door.

So let’s end that scandal.

Give them one named contact for the co-ordination of all mum or dad’s needs and high-quality, home-based support.

And if mum or dad has to go into hospital, let’s give people the peace of mind of known care staff going with them on to the ward.

This is what becomes possible in a one nation health and care service.

People with more rights over where and how care is delivered.

Too many people, against their wishes, end their life in hospital.

So we work to give people the right to be at home, with family around them and social care free as part of that.

These are the higher aspirations we can have.

And, finally, a service that respects those who care for other people’s relatives.

Proper recognition for their service to society, by asking the NHS to work to lift up employment standards in social care.

Social care no longer a dead-end job but young people given aspirations to advance; cutting out the cancer of abused zero-hours contracts.

One valued team working around the person.

It’s what clinicians want to do.

But, right now, they can’t.

In Cameron’s NHS, the competition lawyers call the shots.

They call integration “anti-competitive”.

Have you ever heard anything more ridiculous?

The Health & Social Care Act 2012 has placed the NHS on a fast-track to fragmentation and privatisation.

It has got to go - and it will.

In the first Queen’s Speech of the next Labour Government, we will repeal the Act.

But we don’t just wait.

All over England, people are embracing Labour’s agenda and rejecting Cameron’s market.

25 councils of all colours working as our Whole Person Care Innovation areas.

A plan to restore trust in care of older people. But in politics too.

The public are looking for answers that modern politics has not been providing.

A national health and care service, based on people before profits.

Conference, isn’t that something to be proud of on those doorsteps?

A Labour answer worth voting for?

A better alternative to Cameron’s Health Lottery?

So Conference,

Let’s give the country that choice.

Let’s find a new spirit of ‘45 in 2015.

Let’s extend Bevan’s vision to the whole person; end the lottery in older people’s care.

Let’s back our instincts and have the courage of convictions.

NHS values, Labour values, the country’s values.

Let Labour again make history today.’

Source: The Labour Party