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Health and care sector can help boost economy, Streeting insists

Health and care sector can help boost economy, Streeting insists
Labour Party Flickr: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The nation’s health system can help the new government deliver economic growth, according to Wes Streeting, who has pledged to provide training and job opportunities within the sector.

The new health and social care secretary has expressed a desire to ‘end the begging bowl culture’ where his department ‘only ever goes to the Treasury to ask for more money’.

Speaking at an event for the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, Mr Streeting set out an ambition to deliver ‘billions of pounds of economic growth’ by cutting waiting times and improving public health.

The government will use the NHS and social care’s role as local and regional anchor institutions as ‘engines of economic growth’, by providing training and job opportunities to local people across the country, he said.

The health and care secretary also pledged to make the UK ‘a life sciences and medical technology powerhouse’.

He said: ‘If we can combine the care of the NHS and the genius of our country’s leading scientific minds, we can develop modern treatments for patients and help get Britain’s economy booming.’

‘The NHS and social care are the biggest employers in most parts of our country. They should be engines of economic growth, giving opportunities in training and work to local people, as well as providing public services,’ Mr Streeting added.

With 2.8 million people inactive due to long-term sickness, improving health and boosting the labour market back to pre-pandemic levels would deliver significant economic growth, according to the Department of Health and Social Care.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) responded to Mr Streeting’s comments by emphasising the need for investment.

Professor Nicola Ranger, the RCN’s acting general secretary and chief executive, said: ‘Research globally and closer to home proves that investment in nursing is good for economic growth as well as patient outcomes.

‘Patients receiving timely and effective care is vital to a well-run economy and nursing staff are key to that agenda.’

She added: ‘The new government’s growth mission is ambitious, and it requires an equally ambitious plan for the nursing workforce. That must include a fair pay offer soon and the necessary funds to turn around a failing NHS Long Term Workforce Plan.’

Meanwhile, Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, described Mr Streeting’s speech as ‘a refreshing reframing of the narrative that so often surrounds our sector’, since health and social care had for too long been seen as ‘a drain of economic resource’.

He said: ‘As the largest employer in the country, our sector already contributes over £60bn to the economy. With the right investment, a stable and sustainable social care sector can drive economic growth, add significant value to the economy, and provide meaningful employment for people of all ages up and down the country.’

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