Burnham bids to save job with ‘historic’ NHS motion

Andy Burnham strengthened Labour's commitment to integrating social care into the NHS today – and reinforced his job security in the process.

The shadow health security risks being reshuffled out of the role after expressing frustration over the summer with Labour's economic policies.

But he has now secured the "historic" unanimous approval of his flagship policy by the Labour conference, in a development which will make it harder for Ed Miliband to set him aside this autumn.

"I want conference to feel this is its policy, not my policy, and they're going to be ready to take it out and explain it to people in a very grassroots, doorstep way," he told Politics.co.uk before his speech.

"I want this conference to feel this is our policy. This will represent a break – we're making our choice with integration and collaboration. It's about drawing a line under [David] Cameron's market."

The motion, to integrate social care into the NHS, has been compared by Burnham's team to the 1937 vote in which Labour committed to the principles of universal healthcare.

But delegates in the hall may have missed its significance after it was passed unanimously in a group of completely uncontested votes.

Aides say the vote is a symbolic endorsing of the policy but accept it does not necessarily make the party more or less committed to it – reflecting the limited influence which the Labour conference actually has on policy decisions.

Observers have suggested its real political value lies in reinforcing the Labour leadership's own commitment to the policy.

Burnham's concerns may have been reinforced by Miliband's speech in Brighton yesterday.

It triggered huge applause from delegates with calls for Labour to "rescue" the NHS from Cameron, but downplayed the health and social care policy by grouping it with broader reforms aiding the elderly on mental and physical health.

"The 1945 Labour government, in really tough times, raised its sights and created the National Health Service," the Labour leader said.

"I want the next Labour government to do the same, even in tough times, to raise our sights about what the health service can achieve, bringing together physical health, mental health, and the care needs of the elderly: a true integrated National Health Service. That's the business of the future."

Miliband reportedly faces calls from members of the Labour leader's team to clear the opposition front benches of figures like Burnham and Ed Balls closely linked with the Gordon Brown years.

Burnham, who was forced on to the defensive earlier this year over his actions as health secretary relating to the Mid-Staffordshire scandal, is viewed as the most at-risk figure from the final year of the New Labour government.

His call for Labour to "shout louder" contributed to a tough summer for Miliband's leadership.

Now he has praised Miliband for being prepared to "stand outside the consensus" on issues like Syria and phone-hacking.

Labour party rules give the leader the power to play down conference motions by ultimately choosing the "time and method" of pursuing them in the Commons.

Burnham said he hoped his speech would be a critical moment for the Labour party which Miliband will find it hard to turn his back on.

"This hasn't been party policy for 65 years, we're hoping it will be as of tomorrow, and that transforms how you can start to think about health and care and the way you think about services," he added yesterday.

"It's an incredibly important moment in terms of the history of the NHS."