On Thursday Mr Burnham answered the first in a series of questions from GP readers about topics including GP recruitment, the future of CCGs and independent contractor status. Answers to your questions six to 10 below.
6. Why have you only promised an extra £2.5bn for the NHS when NHS England believes more than three times this amount will be needed as has been promised by your two main rivals?
Labour will always give the NHS the funding it needs. We are the only party with a fully-funded plan for the NHS and our plan will bring in significant resources into the NHS this year. The Tories haven’t set out a penny of extra funding for the NHS – because they have no idea where the money will come from.
7. At a time when GP workloads are spiralling out of control, why should we want to offer access within 48-hours to a GP appointment?
Because poor GP access isn’t just bad for patients, who face longer waits for appointments or more difficulty seeing their preferred GP, but also for the NHS as a whole as general practice is the key to helping people stay healthy and out of hospital. These pressures aren’t the fault of GPs, but of the government: investment in general practice has been squeezed and large parts of the system are still reeling from the recent NHS reorganisation. Labour’s plans to improve access are not a return to a one-size-fits-all 48-hour target but instead offering a range of options to meet different needs, including the ability to see your preferred GP which is particularly important for people with long-term conditions or complex needs. Many GPs are already able to offer access options but we want all surgeries to. That’s why this pledge will be supported by extra investment in general practice and our commitment to 8,000 more GPs by 2020.
8. Why should the NHS become the preferred provider for services when it was a previous Labour government which let the private sector in?
Labour used the private sector to add capacity and help reduce waiting lists to a record low. The Tory-led government has used the private sector to destabilise the NHS and break-up services. Labour believes that where the NHS can provide a high-quality service it should be the preferred provider, and it should be given an incentive to improve and reform, rather than automatically moving to competitive tender, as happens now.
9. Do your plans to set limits on the amount of sugar, fat and salt in food marketed substantially to children run the risk of turning the UK into a nanny state?
It is right to act to protect children, and this is what parents want. Two-thirds of mums say they are worried about the amount of sugar their children consume and three-quarters of parents think the government should more strictly regulate the way junk food is advertised to children.
10. Why should the NHS profits of private providers be capped and how do you decide what level the cap should be?
This will help ensure resources are spent on patient care rather than going on profits, and it will remove incentives to cut care quality in order to increase financial returns. 5% is the standard level, but commissioners will be able to vary this upwards or downwards to take account of specific issues relating to the nature of services, and the level of risk or innovation involved; however, they would have to be able to justify why they have done so.