Labour’s Wes Streeting launches review to plan for national care service | Labour

Labour will aim to bring in a national care service in England free at the point of use, just as the 1945 government brought in the NHS, the shadow health secretary has said, launching a review of how it would work.

In an interview with the Guardian, Wes Streeting said he had asked the Fabian Society to look at how the service would be funded and structured, with a view to bringing it in over the course of several parliaments.

He said the immediate priority would be providing better pay, training and full rights at work for carers, and stronger national standards. The “long-term vision” would be a national service on a par with Aneurin Bevan’s vision for the NHS.

“I think the key thing about a national care service is that it’s a journey, not an event. We would not be able to deliver this overnight or even in a single parliament,” Streeting said. “It’s about how we lay the foundations for it in the first term of a Labour government and then look to build on it in a second or third term.”

He expressed concerns about many care homes owned by private equity groups, with one in seven not meeting standards and requiring improvement. The review will look at whether private equity-owned care homes could be brought into public ownership.

“If private providers want to continue playing a role in delivering social care then they have to deliver good quality care and with a public service ethos,” he said.

Streeting said he was “genuinely open-minded” about who should be responsible for the publicly owned national care service, whether the NHS, local councils or another body.

The former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn promised a national care service in the 2019 manifesto but his successor, Keir Starmer, has said he is wiping the slate clean and writing the manifesto again from scratch.

Streeting said a national care service was “unfinished business” for Labour, which published a white paper on the idea as one of its last acts in government.

“As Keir Starmer set out this week, the Labour party is starting afresh and writing a manifesto that looks to the future not shackled by the past. We are going to work towards a national care service. That is where Labour is and that is my commitment as shadow health secretary. And one argument I want to get across is that unless we face the crisis in social care, the NHS backlog is going to be harder to resolve,” he said.

In its review of social care, the Fabian Society will look at the structure of the care home market and how the next Labour government will guarantee good standards of care for all and professional standards for carers across the sector.

On pay for care workers, Streeting said there should be a significant uplift. “If you look at how things have changed under the Tories, it used to be the case that care workers were paid 30p per hour more than retail workers but now they get paid 20p less than retail and now we are losing workers to companies like Amazon, who let’s be honest are not famed for their pay, terms and conditions.”

Last month the Scottish government set out plans for a national care service to overhaul adult care with an emphasis on care at home. It would not nationalise the sector but would make care firm bosses directly accountable to Scottish ministers in a more centralised system.

Scottish Labour has said it is not a true national care service but a “power grab” that aims to take authority away from local councils, while Unite called it an “incomprehensible, incoherent and dreadful bill”.

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