UK Politics

Labour conference: Healy in private care home pledge

John Healey
Image caption John Healey accused the coalition of creating 'chaos' in the NHS

Labour would ban some firms from running care homes to stop another Southern Cross crisis.

Shadow health secretary John Healy made the policy announcement in his speech to the Labour conference.

He also accused the government of attempting to "break up" the NHS by unleashing "the full force of competition" on it.

The Tories accused him of "ludicrous scaremongering" and said Labour would run the NHS into the ground.

In his speech, Mr Healey said private firms should be able to provide services to the NHS but should be banned from running hospitals.

He admitted that Labour had failed to regulate which businesses could invest in care homes when it was in government.

But if it returned to power, it would intervene to stop a repeat of the Southern Cross financial scandal that left thousands of elderly residents facing an uncertain future.

And when it comes to NHS contracts, he said that firms which have a "true social ethos" will be favoured over those deemed to be "driven by narrow commercial interests".

'Best standards'

He told Labour delegates in Liverpool: "People's confidence in care was shaken by the crisis at Southern Cross.

"Care for some of the most vulnerable in our society, traded by predatory fund managers who saw elderly people as commodities and dementia as a high-profit market.

"We did not act before but we will in future. So we will regulate for the best business practices as well as the best care standards."

He said there had always been a place for non-NHS providers - including private providers - to supplement, not substitute for NHS care.

But he said Labour would "oppose any government move to privatise NHS hospitals".

"We will guarantee under Labour that NHS hospitals remain in the NHS.

"Labour will look instead to develop integrated care organisations to allow primary, secondary and social care to work together.

"And because our values demand we're not neutral on who provides care, we will look to promote those that share a true social ethos over those driven by narrow commercial interests."


He accused Prime Minister David Cameron of breaking his "personal promises" to protect the NHS, leading to longer waiting times, patients being denied treatments and cuts to services.

"The prime minister is in denial about the damage his government is doing," Mr Healey told delegates.

"The chaos of the biggest reorganisation in NHS history, the waste of billions of pounds on new bureaucracy.

"The betrayal of our NHS in a health Bill which will break up the NHS as a national health service and set it up as a full-scale market, ruled for the first time by the full force of competition law."

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley hit back by saying: "With no announcements, and no vision for the NHS, Labour resorted today to nothing more than ludicrous scaremongering.

"The simple truth is that waiting times have come down since the general election and we are committed to making sure they remain stable."

More on this story