Healthcare sector could help boost economy, says Streeting

The country’s healthcare system could help the new government achieve economic growth, according to Wes Streeting, who has pledged to provide training and job opportunities in the sector.

The new health and social care minister has said he wants to “end the culture of begging” that sees his department “going to the Treasury just to beg for more money”.

In a speech at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, Mr Streeting set out an ambitious target of achieving “billions of pounds of economic growth” by cutting waiting times and improving public health.

He added that the Government would harness the role of the NHS and social care as local and regional anchor institutions, acting as “engines of economic growth” by providing training and employment opportunities to people across the country.

The health and social care secretary also pledged to make the UK a “life sciences and health technology powerhouse”.

He said: “If we can combine NHS care with the brilliance of our country’s leading scientific minds, we can develop cutting-edge treatments for patients and help the UK economy thrive.”

“The NHS and social care are the biggest employers in most parts of our country. They should be engines of economic growth, providing training and job opportunities for local people, and delivering public services,” added Mr Streeting.

With 2.8 million people inactive due to long-term illness, improving health and restoring the labour market to pre-pandemic levels would deliver significant economic growth, according to the Department of Health and Social Care.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) responded to Mr Streeting’s comments, emphasising the need for investment.

Professor Nicola Ranger, Acting Secretary General and Director General of the RCN, said: “Research from around the world and here at home shows that investment in nursing benefits economic growth as well as patient outcomes.”

“Providing patients with timely and effective care is essential for the economy to function well, and nursing staff play a key role in this.”

She added: “The new government’s growth mission is ambitious and requires an equally ambitious plan for the nursing workforce. This must include a fair pay deal and the necessary funding to reverse the failed NHS Long Term Workforce Plan.”

Meanwhile, Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, described Mr Streeting’s speech as a “refreshing new perspective on the narrative that so often surrounds our sector” because health and social care has for too long been seen as a “drain on economic resources”.

He said: “As the country’s largest employer, our sector already contributes over £60 billion to the economy. With the right investment, a strong and sustainable social care sector can drive economic growth, add significant value to the economy and provide meaningful employment for people of all ages across the country.”