Election 2015

Election 2015: Labour plans nurses recruitment drive

Generic nurse Image copyright Science Photo Library

Labour has said it will launch a drive to get 1,000 more nurses into training this year if it wins the election.

The party's leader Ed Miliband said the move formed part of Labour's aim to recruit 20,000 more NHS nurses.

Half of nurses said wards are dangerously understaffed, he told BBC Breakfast.

The Conservatives say they inherited a nursing crisis from Labour, with staff shortages contributing to the Stafford hospital scandal between 2005 and 2008.

"We have turned that round with record high nurse numbers on our wards and a new focus on compassionate care", a spokesman said.

The Tories have already pledged an extra £8bn a year by 2020 for the NHS in England if they win the election.

But Mr Miliband said the Conservatives didn't "know where a penny of it" was coming from.

Of the £2.5bn promised by Labour, he said this was a "downpayment" and it was clear where the money was coming from.

"We are going to have a Budget within the first month of a Labour government," he added.

"It's going to put in place the mansion tax, the tobacco levy and the clampdown on tax avoidance by the hedge funds to get the money flowing into our NHS straightaway."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Labour accuses the Conservatives of cutting nursing training and warns of an A&E crisis

Mr Miliband was speaking to BBC Breakfast ahead of a speech on Tuesday to student nurses at Manchester Metropolitan University.

There, he will say that, if elected, he will ask universities to reopen admissions for highly-oversubscribed nursing courses.

About 30,000 would-be nurses were turned away in 2014 because of the lack of places, he will tell the audience.

He will also highlight new figures to emerge through Freedom of Information (FOI) requests which suggest one-third of NHS Trusts were investigated last year over concerns about safe staffing.

Mr Miliband will say this disclosure follows reports in the last week showing the number of people waiting over four hours at accident and emergency departments has risen by over 50% compared to last year.

"Two-thirds of nurses say patients are missing out on care because there just aren't enough nurses on the wards," he will claim.

"None of this has happened by accident.

"It has happened as a direct result of choices this government has made; cutting nurse training, failing to understand that if people don't get the care they need at home and in their own communities, it ends up in an A&E crisis..."

NHS in England funding pledges

• Conservatives: Increase NHS spending in England by at least £8bn above inflation over the next five years

• Labour: Extra £2.5bn funding for the NHS, to pay for 20,000 more nurses, 3,000 midwives and 8,000 GPs

• Lib Dems: Increase real terms NHS funding by at least £8bn a year by 2020, starting with an extra £1bn a year until 2018

• UKIP: Extra £3bn a year for the NHS by 2020, used to fund 20,000 more nurses, 8,000 GPs and 3,000 midwives

• Green: Increase NHS budget by £12bn a year

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said there was a "severe shortage" of staff in the NHS, exacerbated by what he said was a "stranglehold" over recruitment by private agencies.

"We have got to get this agency bill down," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. "It is literally going through the roof."

Other aims of Labour's "rescue plan" include early planning to avoid a winter crisis in hospitals, and tackling what it describes as "the £300m scandal of vulnerable people being kept in hospital this year because they cannot get the care they need to be discharged".

Q&A: Health and care - the background issues

The NHS has become a major battleground for the main political parties, with more announcements on the service expected over the coming days.

Labour says it wants to pay for extra nurses through its "Time to Care Fund", which will use money from a mansion tax of properties worth over £2m, and also by cracking down on tax avoidance, and imposing levies on tobacco firms.

Mr Miliband will say that this will bring in £2.5 billion a year from 2016-17.

The £8bn-a-year figure pledged by the Conservatives for the NHS in England by 2020 if they win the election is one which NHS England boss Simon Stevens cited as the funding gap between what the NHS currently receives and what it needs to implement his modernisation programme.

'Warm words'

Pressed about the £8bn figure, Mr Burnham said Labour would do "whatever it takes" to secure the future of the health service but was "not going to give the NHS cheques that are going to bounce in a few years time".

A Conservative spokesman said: "This government inherited a nursing crisis with the scandal of short-staffed wards at Mid Staffs and other failing hospitals.

"Unlike Ed Miliband, we have committed the additional £8bn a year the NHS says it needs, which is the only way to ensure hospitals have the money they need to increase staff."

The Lib Dems have also pledged £8bn for the NHS funded by scrapping some tax reliefs.

"NHS staff and patients want to know the health service is secure for the long term," a party spokesman said.

"Until Labour agree to make the necessary resources available, all they can offer is warm words and nothing more."

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