The shadow health secretary has spotlighted the work of a district nurse to showcase the Labour Party’s vision for shifting more care out of hospitals and into the community.
Speaking at an event hosted by healthcare thinktank The King’s Fund today, the Labour health secretary detailed his plans to ‘fix the front door’ of the NHS, including by investing in district nurses and health visitors.
He recommitted to the party’s promises for doubling the number of district nurses qualifying every year, as well as training an additional 5,000 health visitors.
Mr Streeting said that a future Labour government would ‘shift the focus of healthcare out of the hospital and into the community’ making the NHS ‘as much a Neighbourhood Health Service as a National Health Service’.
‘More health services should be available to you on your doorstep and from the comfort of your own home. The NHS must once again be there for us when we need it,’ he said.
He added: ‘When I spent a morning shadowing a district nurse, I watched her at work, caring for a lung cancer patient in the comfort of his own home, freeing up a hospital bed for someone else; providing palliative care to another man dying at home, surrounded by his family.
‘This is the future of care with Labour. We will double the number of district nurses qualifying every year.
‘That support in the community should be there for everyone, right from the start.’
In addition, the shadow health secretary drew attention to the ‘important role’ played by health visitors in early childhood development and criticised ‘short-sighted and short-termist’ cuts made to the workforce.
‘Every child matters, so we will train 5,000 new health visitors to give every child the best start in life,’ said Mr Streeting.
More widely, he said there were ‘three principles’ for Labour’s reform agenda: ‘Healthcare on your doorstep’; ‘There for you when you need it’ and ‘Patients in control’.
In response to the shadow health secretary’s speech, Alison Morton, chief executive of the Institute of Health Visiting, said: ‘This reform is long overdue, as hundreds of thousands of babies and young children are currently not getting the support that they need.
‘The Labour Party’s commitment to train 5,000 more health visitors is essential to rebuild the service after eight years of cuts that have led to a 40% reduction in the number of health visitors in England.’
She added: ‘This investment will ensure that health visitors are able to meet the scale of the challenge and work with families to prevent, identify and treat problems before they reach crisis point.
‘Investing in our children’s health is not only the right thing to do, it also makes sound economic sense.’