Burnham’s radical plans for the NHS

Leigh MP Andy Burnham
Leigh MP Andy Burnham

SHADOW health secretary Andy Burnham has unveiled radical plans for a new NHS model if Labour wins this year’s general election.

Unveiling the Labour party’s public health policy, Leigh MP Mr Burnham said the health service needed to cover people’s entire medical and social needs if it was to provide care in the 21st century.

He outlined plans for single-budget commissioning in the NHS which will be aimed at preventing people ending up in hospital and linking health policy to areas such as housing, education, planning, transport and leisure.

Mr Burnham also promised tougher action against unhealthy foods in products aimed at children, measures to tackle poor diets, heavy drinking and smoking and moves to help people take control of their own health and get active.

Mr Burnham said: “Though Labour’s approach to public health is changing, our historic mission remains the same: to break the link between health and wealth and to tackle health inequalities, so that no-one’s health is disadvantaged by where they live or what they earn.

“The NHS needs to break out of its 20th-century treatment model mentality and embrace a new whole-person, social model of support that starts with prevention.

“Only by doing that will we help all children fulfil their potential and build a more equal and fair society.”

Mr Burnham’s speech, delivered at the Demos think-tank in London, said the Government had not done enough to protect the public health on issues such as tobacco plain packaging and alcohol minimum pricing, but said it was vital not to come across as lecturing the public.

He said Labour would regulate maximum levels of fat, salt and sugar in children’s food, but other items at the supemarket would have traffic-light labelling to enable shoppers to make more informed choices.

He cited the Opposition’s success in campaigning to ban smoking in cars with children and clamp down on people buying tobacco for under-age smokers.

Mr Burnham said: “The simple truth is there is far more we can, and should, be doing as a society to protect children from the harm caused by smoke, sugar, alcohol and inactivity and give each child a better start in life, and we will not be deflected from doing it.

“But, beyond that, we will develop a more positive approach to promoting the health of the rest of the population, recognising that people are free to make their own choices.

“Old-fashioned ideas about banning or restrict are unlikely to work, as are negative messages telling people what not to do. If we get the tone wrong, and public health proposals are seen as interfering and finger-wagging, then it could undermine public support and turn people off.”

Mr Burnham also said Labour would put encouraging people to exercise and do physical activity at the centre of public health policy.