Labour declare war on 'sick note Britain' as Health Secretary Wes Streeting unveils plans to get people off benefits and back to work

Labour declare war on 'sick note Britain' as Health Secretary Wes Streeting unveils plans to get people off benefits and back to work
By: dailymail Posted On: July 10, 2024 View: 45

Health Secretary Wes Streeting yesterday declared war on 'sick note' Britain.

He used his first speech in his new role to outline plans to get people off benefits and NHS waiting lists and back to work.

His comments came against the backdrop of 2.8 million people now being classified as economically inactive due to long-term sickness – with the figure having increased by 127,000 in the past year.

Mr Streeting, stressing that the Department of Health is 'no longer simply a public services department', insisted: 'This is an economic growth department. And the health of the nation and the health of the economy are inextricably linked.

'That means we're going to be a government that firstly recognises that fact. And recognises that as we get people not just back to health but back to work – that's a big contribution to growth when there are three million people off work and off sick.'

Health Secretary Wes Streeting (pictured) yesterday declared war on 'sick note' Britain
He used his first speech in his new role to outline plans to get people off benefits and NHS waiting lists and back to work (Stock Image)
Former Prime Minister Sir Tony Blair speaking at a conference Mr Streeting also attendedon July 9

Mr Streeting said he believes that improving the nation's health and returning the labour market back to pre-Covid pandemic levels could generate billions of pounds for the Treasury and 'get Britain booming'.

He stated: 'The starting point has got to be 'we will help you achieve your mission for growth and improve the prosperity and lives of everyone in this country by making sure that we are with you lockstep in driving growth'. That is a big shift in mindset and focus and activity.'

Mr Streeting also told delegates at a conference, hosted by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, of his plans to reform the health service, saying: 'Our love for the NHS is not in doubt but sometimes, if you love someone, you have to force them to change.'

He added: 'I want to end the begging bowl culture, where the Health Secretary only ever goes to the Treasury to ask for more money. I want to deliver the Treasury billions of pounds of economic growth.

'This Government's agenda for health and social care can help drag our economy out of the sluggish productivity and poor growth of recent years.

'By cutting waiting lists, we can get Britain back to health and back to work, and by taking bold action on public health, we can build the healthy society needed for a healthy economy.'

The Department of Work and Pensions estimated ill-health cost the UK economy £100billion in 2016 but more recent external estimates now put this figure at £150billion, or 7 per cent of GDP.

Mr Streeting has made it his mission to cut NHS waiting times so people need less time off work with physical or mental health issues.

A greater focus on public health is likely to include action to reduce smoking, with the Tobacco and Vapes Bill expected to feature in the King's Speech, and new policies aimed at curbing obesity.

Mr Streeting said he believes that improving the nation's health and returning the labour market back to pre-Covid pandemic levels could generate billions of pounds for the Treasury and 'get Britain booming'
Mr Streeting has made it his mission to cut NHS waiting times so people need less time off work with physical or mental health issues (Stock Image)

In a move likely to anger the left of the Labour Party, Mr Streeting pledged to work 'hand in hand' with the private sector to speed-up access to drugs and technologies that can improve patient care and make the NHS more efficient.

He claimed the government will make the UK a 'powerhouse for life sciences and medical technology', working to grow research institutions and medical technology firms.

Mr Streeting's speech came just a few days after he said he believes the NHS is 'broken' due to waiting lists.

The Patients' Association last night echoed his view as they released the results of a survey of 1,210 people that revealed 30 per cent had struggled to access a GP in the past six months and only 28 per cent of those needing NHS care had all of their appointments go ahead as was planned.

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