Jeremy Corbyn is to demand an ‘emergency Budget’ to pump £5bn into the NHS and an end to ‘Carillion-style’ outsourcing in the health service, Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth has told MPs.
Speaking to the weekly Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) meeting in the Commons, Ashworth said that he and Corbyn would underline the twin policies at a central London rally of doctors and nurses and other health staff this Thursday.
The event will kick off a year of campaigning to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the NHS and highlight that the winter crisis is in fact a ‘year-round crisis’ for patients and staff.
Ashworth, who said that the collapse of construction firm Carillion had exposed the dangers of outsourcing, vowed a Labour government would end the ’toxic privatisation agenda” within the health service – and introduce a new presumption that services such as cleaning would be done in-house.
His attack on outsourcing came as Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Jon Trickett set out Labour’s plans to withdraw public sector contracts from firms that failed to recognise trade unions, paid bosses too much or failed to pay suppliers on time.
Theresa May last week pointed out that the Blair government had started a third of all current public-private finance schemes.
But in the PLP meeting, the Shadow Health Secretary said “we will take no lectures from the Tories on PFI” and listed a string of Cabinet ministers who had strongly supported the policy, including David Lidington, David Davis, Liam Fox, David Mundell and Alun Cairns.
“The toxic privatisation agenda in our NHS has gone too far. Billions of pounds has flowed out of the NHS into private sector hands leaving a poorer service for patients,” he said.
“The Carillion debacle has brought this into sharp focus. So it’s right that we work on a presumption that contracts are delivered in-house because too often outsourcing fails patients.”
He pointed out his own local hospital trust in Leicester scrapped its £300 million Interserve contract following reports of blood stains in the corridors and bins not being emptied.
“Just last year Nottingham University Hospitals Trust ended its contact with Carillion for their failure to clean wards properly including leaving infectious waste overflowing on a children’s ward,” he added.
“And of course we have a situation where Virgin Care can sue the NHS forcing the NHS to settle out of court taking that money that should be going to patient care.”
In a major speech, Trickett said on Monday: “The Tories have handed over multi-million pound contracts to large companies, regardless of how unstable those firms are.
“The Government is overseeing a race to the bottom in these firms’ standards, turning a blind eye to blacklisting, tax avoidance and a whole host of other questionable behaviours.
“Theresa May has said she is a customer of these huge companies, but she’s actually the Prime Minister and should act accordingly.
“Labour would act decisively, in contrast with the weakness of the current government, and if outsourcing firms cannot guarantee their business standards, we will take back control of contracts as soon as possible.”
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said he wants a 10-year funding settlement for the NHS and he and Boris Johnson and others are set to use a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday to ask for an extra £100m a week for health after Brexit.
Ashworth told the PLP that in recent months the NHS had seen “the worst winter crisis for a generation, with unprecedented cancelled operations, 100,000 waiting in ambulances and hospitals at capacity”.
“But this is a year round crisis in our NHS. We have vacancies for 100,000 staff and last year we had trolley waits for 565,000 patients. NHS bosses admit they won’t be able to hit the 18 week target,” he added.