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Labour’s NHS and social care plans will save money, says Angela Rayner | Labour

Angela Rayner said Labour’s NHS and social care plan would save money “without worrying about being cost neutral”.

The party’s plans for funding the health service have been criticised by some think tanks for falling “far short” of what is needed to improve it.

Trade unions and social care bosses say the sector is “broken” and the next government must prioritise social care – and that tackling problems within the NHS is not enough.

The Health Foundation think tank has called on politicians to be honest with the public about the scale of the crisis facing the NHS and how much money is needed to fix it, after new analysis suggested there could be a £38 billion annual shortfall in funding needed to improve the NHS by the end of the next parliament.

The new government will face difficult choices between raising taxes to provide more funding, cutting spending in other departments and services or “reducing activity” in the NHS, the report said.

Asked about the cost of Labour’s plan to improve NHS staff retention, Mr Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, told BBC Radio 4’s Today: “I used to work in the social care sector and I’ve also chaired a conference representing Unison members who have worked in the NHS for many years, and I believe that having a workforce plan would actually save money if we could implement these reforms.”

“I think if we look after our staff and are able to retain them and not have to pay huge agency fees, we can actually save money, not to mention being cost neutral.

“I think it’s a big problem that we’re spending so much money on agency fees and continuing to transport patients through the emergency department because we can’t provide the right support when we need it.”

Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said “social care is completely dysfunctional,” adding that “its failings are having a terrible impact on other public services, particularly the NHS.”

Her thoughts were echoed by Lynne Romeo, who retired as England’s chief social worker for adults in January after 10 years, saying: “There’s been a huge focus on the NHS. [the next government does not] “Prioritize social welfare and put social welfare on a sustainable basis.”

Shadow health and social care secretary Wes Streeting admitted at the weekend that he wished the Labour manifesto, which promised to work towards creating a national care service, had been “more ambitious” on social care.

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Reforms to adult social care charges, which include an £86,000 cap on the amount England citizens can spend on personal care over their lifetime, were due to be implemented by the Conservative government from October 2023 but have been delayed by two years.

Social care leaders are calling for a “major change” in the way politicians understand and debate the sector.

An open letter to party leaders, co-ordinated by the Local Government Association, said people should be given reason to be hopeful about the future of social care, rather than fearful about the challenges it faces.

Parties have faced criticism for not featuring many plans in their manifestos or election campaigns to tackle issues such as costs, labour shortages and social care pay.