As part of its ‘five missions for a better Britain’, the Labour Party has outlined its health commitments including better long-term workforce planning and tackling the social determinants of health.
President of the RCP Dr Sarah Clarke said: “We very much welcome the Labour party’s health mission announced today which details their commitments including improving long-term workforce planning and a cross-government approach to tackle health inequalities.
“We strongly welcome commitments to improve healthy life expectancy for all, halve the gap between different regions in England, and establish a ‘mission delivery board’ to ‘bring together all departments with an influence over the social determinants of health’.
“Social determinants of ill health, including smoking, obesity, pollution and poor housing, place significant and avoidable demands on our health service. That is why the over 240 members of the Inequalities in Health Alliance (IHA), convened by the RCP, have been calling for a cross-government strategy to reduce health inequalities. Labour is right to recognise that to improve health we have to focus on the factors that shape it - which so often sit outside the Department of Health and Social Care or NHS.
“With 1 in 3 children in England leaving primary school above a healthy weight, we firmly welcome the commitment to end the promotion of junk food adverts before the 9pm watershed. Plans to introduce stricter statutory targets on air pollution are welcome too given the significant impact of poor air quality on our health. And with smoking a significant driver of health inequality, it is welcome that Labour has pledged to make all hospital trusts integrate an ‘opt-out’ smoking cessation intervention into routine care, supported by a named smoking cessation lead.
“These bold commitments will require sustained investment but they are a welcome and ambitious long-term vision for a healthier population.
“Workforce continues to be the biggest barrier facing the NHS. We strongly welcomed Labour’s commitment last Autumn to double the number of medical school places and support the pledge today to publish independently verified workforce projections to ensure our healthcare professionals can meet the demands of a growing and ageing society. Expanding medical school places will need to be matched with additional funded training places, and robust measures on retention to ensure staff feel valued and want to continue a fulfilling career in the NHS.
“The UK can be proud of its position as a global leader in medical research. We welcome Labour’s recognition that giving the health workforce the opportunity to practice research and contribute to their field will not only further advance medical practice, but help retain and develop staff. We know time is a significant barrier to undertaking research – resolving this is key.
“Labour’s health mission today echoes many of the issues the RCP has been campaigning on for improvement for years. It offers a welcome direction of travel in building a long-term sustainable and effective plan for the NHS and a healthier society.”