Miliband described the progressively more negative tone adopted by David Cameron on the NHS as the PM “finding someone to blame” for the decline in health service provision since 2010.
Echoing statements by Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham, he said the challenge was to achieve “a true integrated National Health Service” that united physical health, mental health and social care priorities.
“The 1945 Labour government raised its sights, even in tough times,” Miliband told the Labour Party Conference in Brighton. “I want the next Labour government to do the same: to raise our health in the NHS. Bringing together physical health, mental health, and all the care for the needs of the elderly: a true integrated National Health Service.”
He noted that Cameron’s post-election praise for the NHS contrasted with the PM’s more recent insistence that the NHS is failing. This, he said, was “not because the doctors and nurses aren’t doing as good a job as they were before, it’s because… the health service is getting worse on their watch, and they’re desperately thrashing around finding someone to blame.”
Miliband listed the problems the coalition government has created: “the needless top-down reorganisation that no one voted for or ever wanted, the abolition of NHS Direct… not just an annual A&E crisis but an A&E crisis for all seasons.”
He concluded: “It’s the same old story; we rescue the NHS, they wreck the NHS, and we’ll have to rescue it all over again.”
Miliband did not discuss New Labour’s original market-led NHS reforms, which included PFI schemes and the imposition of Foundation Trust status on hospitals.