The nursing workforce is the ‘golden link’ for tackling health inequalities, which the Labour Party wants to address as a priority starting from childhood, Jonathan Ashworth has said.
Speaking at the QNI conference today, the shadow health and social care secretary said nurses are ‘vital’ to Labour’s ambition to introduce ‘the biggest children’s health and wellbeing strategy in history’, which he first pledged at the Labour Party conference last month.
Mr Ashworth told community nursing delegates: ‘You cannot tackle endemic health inequalities without nursing at every step of the way. I don’t just see nursing as a workforce to respond to illness and disease… Nursing is that golden link for every aspect of tackling health inequality.’
Labour plans to strengthen heath visiting, ensure access to nutritional food, tackle obesity and provide mental health support, he explained.
He added: ‘Health visitors ensure children get the best start; school nurses ensure they are properly supported at school; district nurses support people with managing blood pressure and cholesterol. District nurses, practice nurses, Queen’s nurses support them in older age.’
Mr Ashworth also said he is ‘keen’ to work with the QNI and his nursing advisor, former health minister and district nurse Ann Keen, on inequality and child health.
‘A child born in poverty this second right now will live possibly up to 20 fewer years in good health than a child born in the richest areas. These inequalities start in childhood,’ he added.
Also at the QNI conference, Mr Ashworth repeated Labour’s plan for a national care service, which he said must ‘work in hand with the NHS’. Community nursing would be a ‘key part’ of this reform, because ‘it won’t work on the ground without’ them, he explained.
In addition, he revealed his support for the campaign for the nurse title protected in UK law so only registered nurse can use it, as previously reported by Nursing in Practice.
Children’s health and health inequality has come into sharp focus during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Official data this month suggested the mental health of children and young people has not improved since last year’s lockdown, with one in six suffering a probable mental health disorder.
And at the RCN annual Congress event in September, Sir Michael Marmot, who is director of UCL’s Institute of Health Equity, said the Government must reverse a decade of public health cuts to tackle the health inequalities exposed by the Covid-19 pandemic.