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Social care must be ‘regarded as a profession’, says Wes Streeting

Social care must be ‘regarded as a profession’, says Wes Streeting
Photo credit: Sam Mellish

Social care should be ‘regarded as a profession’ and those working within the sector must be ‘respected as professionals’, the shadow health secretary has said.

Speaking at a Medical Journalists Association (MJA) event at The Royal Society of Medicine last night, attended by Nursing in Practice, Wes Streeting outlined the need to ‘stabilise’ the social care workforce and to ‘recruit and retain’ much needed social care staff.

And separately, he also suggested funding budgets for primary care ‘ought to increase’.

While pressed by journalists on the party’s commitments for social care, Mr Streeting pointed to its recent manifesto pledge to negotiate the country’s ‘first ever fair pay agreement in social care’ if Labour was elected next month.

And he stressed ‘the importance of social care being regarded as a profession, and people that work in it being respected as professionals’.

Mr Streeting placed Labour’s commitments to social care as part of his ‘longer-term plan’ towards a National Care Service, where he aims for it to become ‘commonplace’ for staff to move across from the NHS to social care and vice versa.

The party set out its plans for a National Care Service in its manifesto published last week –pledging to provide ‘consistency of care across the country’ through national standards that ensured ‘high-quality and ongoing stability’.

The manifesto did not provide detail on what such a service would look like, or exactly how it would be funded.

Speaking to MJA members and guests, Mr Streeting recalled a recent visit to a hospital in Paddington, where a patient had been ‘stuck in hospital’ for 60 days, despite being well enough to leave, because the post-hospital care ‘wasn’t available’.

‘What really frustrates me about that example… is that it’s costing thousands of pounds every single day to maintain that patient in that bed,’ he said.

‘Health and social care accounts for 43% of day-to-day departmental spending. The NHS serves 1.3 million patients every day, and is going through the biggest crisis in its history.’

He added that if Labour wins on 4 July, the party will ensure more hospitals invest in ‘local social care beds’ to ensure quicker discharge of patients back to their homes, adding that many of the ‘solutions’ to improve hospital care ‘lie outside of hospital settings’.

‘It would surely be a better use… to spend through a social care partner, so whether it’s a stepped down residential facility, or ideally within the comfort of someone’s home, you get the right care in the right place at the right time,’ said Mr Streeting.

‘In terms of our first steps on social care, one of them is about ensuring that NHS and social care partners work more effectively together now to spend more effectively than we currently do.’

Primary care budget ‘ought to increase’

Turning to primary care, Mr Streeting said he believed general practice would ‘do well’ under a Labour government.

‘We think it’s a vital importance to the future of the NHS that we fix the front door for the NHS in primary care,’ he said.

‘We think the primary care as a proportion of the NHS budget ought to increase. We think that would be better for patients and also better value for taxpayers.’

His comments follow from Mr Streeting’s speech at the Labour party confederation in Liverpool last October, where he promised that primary care would be ‘at the heart’ of Labour’s plan for the NHS.

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