The future of the left since 1884

A Picture of Health

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth MP presents the left’s agenda for the NHS – new Fabian report.


Press release

The NHS needs a major funding increase, structural re-organisation and new priorities according to a Fabian Society report edited by the Shadow Health Secretary. A comprehensive agenda for the future of the NHS is presented in a series of chapters commissioned and edited by Jonathan Ashworth MP. The report brings together analysis and policy recommendations from 12 leading experts on the NHS hand-picked by Ashworth, from both left-wing and non-party perspectives.

A Picture of Health: the NHS at 70 and its future looks backwards at the history and achievements of the NHS over the last 70 years. And it looks to the future, in the context of acute financial pressures and growing healthcare needs . The report argues that now is the time for the left to develop a new agenda for how the service is organised, funded and reformed.

As well as Jonathan Ashworth MP, the report’s authors include Luciana Berger MP, Paul Williams MP, Lord Kerslake, Sara Gorton (head of health at UNISON), Tara Donnelly (chief executive at the Health Innovation Network), and Andrew Harrop (Fabian Society).

Recommendations by the report’s authors include:

  • Annual funding increases for the NHS in England substantially in excess of Conservative plans
  • Restructuring the NHS to unpick the market reforms of Andrew Lansley
  • Prioritising child health, mental health and action on health inequalities
  • Strategically shifting away from reactive acute hospital services towards proactive community-based care
  • Systematically implementing digital solutions with the strongest evidence base.

Jonathan Ashworth MP, shadow health secretary, writes:

Overview: Labour’s commitment is clear: a fully resourced, properly staffed, publicly provided and administered National Health Service alongside a functioning social care service.

Funding: The recent Conservative announcements on spending are a reset from the funding trajectory of the last eight years. But clearly it is not enough investment to deliver the quality of care we need for the future.

Re-organisation: An NHS truly fit for the future must also be structured appropriately. The damage from the 2012 Health and Social Care Act understandably stifled any desire from NHS leaders, staff and patients for further structural change, yet we must not shy away from the need for a responsible rethink. Even Conservative ministers – the same ones who sat in the Cabinet – and signed off the Lansley reforms – agree the Health and Social Care Act has created a mess… Labour’s clear commitment is to repeal this Act and end privatisation. Over the coming months we want to engage in a debate about how we move to partnership and planning in the delivery of healthcare rather than competition and markets.

Children: Narrowing health inequalities with a focus on improving the health and wellbeing of every child will be an overarching aim of the next Labour government’s health policy, and something I consider my personal mission…For too long child health has been neglected as a serious policy priority, storing up substantial problems in later life… our children deserve nothing less than being the healthiest children in the world

Mental health: Labour will substantially increase spending on mental health, and deliver a worldclass child and adolescent mental health service.

Lord Kerslake proposes a fresh re-organisation of the NHS and writes:

A huge simplification and reduction in costly bureaucracy could be achieved by moving away from the current commissioner provider split at local level and introducing long term 10-year contracts based on the size and needs of the local population.

Luciana Berger MP writes on mental health:

The future must be characterised by a new paradigm shift, tilting our efforts away from treatment and towards prevention of mental illness in the first place. We need a political discourse and a public policy which talks of, and supports, ‘mental health’ rather than mental illness. Only if we achieve this will we be able to sustain a world-class system of mental health services within the founding ethos of the NHS.

Sara Gorton, head of health at UNISON, writes on the NHS workforce:

The NHS also needs to do more to tackle bullying and harassment. The NHS has lasted for 70 years because at its heart are the basic values of fairness and equality. But these must apply equally to its staff. Unfortunately the latest annual NHS staff survey shows there’s been a rise in discrimination at work. It is completely unacceptable that black and minority ethnic staff continue to be treated unfavourably in the workplace and that disabled nurses are faced with concerns about a lack of progression opportunities and find job offers being withdrawn.

– Ends –


  1. Contact: Rabyah Khan, media and communications manager at the Fabian Society
    0207 227 4906 | 07392060192 | 
  2. This report represents not the collective views of the organisations involved but only the views of the individual authors.
  3. Sanofi is a global healthcare leader. It discovers, develops and distributes therapeutic solutions focused on patients’ needs.
  4. UNISON is a public service union serving over 1.3 million members and is the leading union for health staff in the UK.
  5. The full list of contributors to this report is: Jonathan Ashworth MP (shadow minister for health), Luciana Berger MP (president of the Labour Campaign for Mental Health), Tara Donelly (chief executive at the Health Innovation Network), Sara Gorton (head of health at UNISON), Chris Graham (chief executive of Picker), Kevin Gulliver (director of the Human City Institute), Andrew Harrop (general secretary of the Fabian Society), Lord Kerslake (president of the Local Government Association), John Lister (information director at London Health Emergency), Professor Neena Modi (Imperial College London), Dr Stephanie Snow (director of NHS at 70: The Story of Our Lives), and Paul Williams MP.
  6. The Fabian Society is Britain’s oldest political think tank. Founded in 1884, the Society is at the forefront of developing political ideas and public policy on the left. The society is alone among think tanks in being a democratically-constituted membership organisation, with over 7,000 members. It is constitutionally affiliated to the Labour party.

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