What might the General Election mean for the NHS?
As the General Election campaign shifts into top gear, the main parties have published their manifestos, giving voters the opportunity to examine their plans for governing the country.
A lot of interest is focused on their proposals for the NHS and the wider health and social care system, and to make it easier to see what they are saying, we have been through the documents and highlighted the key points from each:
Five key points:
- Increase NHS spending by a minimum of £8bn in real terms over the next five years
- Ensure the NHS and social care system has the nurses, midwives, doctors, carers and other health professionals that it needs
- Ensure that the NHS has the buildings and technology it needs to deliver care properly and efficiently
- Recover the cost of medical treatment from people not resident in the UK
- Implement the recommendations of the Accelerated Access Review to make sure that patients get new drugs and treatments faster while the NHS gets best value for money.
- Hold NHS England’s leaders to account for delivering their plan to improve patient care
- Expect GPs to come together to provide greater access, more innovative services, share data and offer better facilities
- Introduce a new GP contract to help develop wider primary care services
- Reform the contract for hospital consultants to reflect the changed nature of hospital care over the past 20 years
- Support more integrated working, including ensuring community pharmacies can play a stronger role
- Legislate to reform and rationalise the current outdated system of professional regulation of healthcare professions
- Help the million and more NHS clinicians and support staff develop the skills they need and the NHS requires in the decades ahead
- Encourage the development of new roles and create a diverse set of potential career paths for the NHS workforce.
‘Exceptional standards of care, wherever, whenever’:
- Make clinical outcomes more transparent
- Empower patients
- Develop a truly seven-day healthcare service – starting with primary care
- Rectify the injustice suffered by those with mental health problems – up to 10,000 more mental health professionals
- Improve the care we give people at the end of life.
- Over £30bn in extra funding over the next Parliament
- Boost capital funding for the NHS
- A new Office for Budget Responsibility for Health
- Halt and review the NHS Sustainability and Transformation Plans
- A new quality, safety and excellence regulator – ‘NHS Excellence’
- Reverse privatisation
- Repeal the Health and Social Care Act that puts profits before patients
- Lay the foundations of a National Care Service for England
- Increase the social care budgets by a further £8bn
- Reverse the damage done to mental health services
- Ring-fence mental health budgets and ensure funding reaches the front line
- Invest in NHS to give patients the modern, well-resourced services they need
- Guarantee and uphold the standards of service
- Guaranteeing access to treatment within 18 weeks
- Stop the routine breach of safe levels of bed occupancy, end mixed-sex wards
- Focus resources on services to provide care closer to home
- Work towards a new model of community care that takes into account not only primary care but also social care and mental health
- Increase funding to GP services
- Tackle the growing problem of rationing of services and medicines.
- Renewed commitment to keeping people fit and well
- Reduce infant deaths, invest in children’s health
- Fight health inequalities
- Increase the number of health visitors and school nurses
- New childhood obesity strategy.
- Invest in our health and care workforce
- Long-term workforce plan
- Scrap the NHS pay cap
- Re-introduce bursaries and funding for health-related degrees.
Funding and the future:
- 1p on the basic, higher and additional rates of income tax to raise additional £6bn, ring-fenced for NHS and social care services
- This additional investment is for priority areas: social care, primary care (and other out-of-hospital care), mental health and public health
- As a replacement for the 1p rise, commission a dedicated Health and Care Tax
- A cross-party health and social care convention, along with patient groups, the public, and professionals, to review the long-term sustainability of the health and social care finances,
- workforce, and integration
- Statutory independent budget monitoring agency, similar to the OBR.
- Guarantee the rights of NHS and social care service staff who are EU nationals
- End the public sector pay freeze for NHS workers
- Reinstate student nurse bursaries
- Support innovation in how organisations can empower staff and patients, including learning from innovative social enterprises
- Protect NHS whistle-blowers
- Produce a national workforce strategy.
Equal care for mental heath
Home, not hospital:
- Move to an integrated service with more joined-up care
- More personal budgets so that people can design services for their own needs
- Ensure those who work in the social care sector are properly trained, with accessible career pathways.
Better access to community services:
- Easier access to GPs, expanding evening and weekend, encourage online, phone and Skype appointments, encourage GPs to work in federations
- National support for struggling GP practices
- Innovation funding to promote GP-led multi-disciplinary health and care hubs
- Encourage GPs and other community clinicians to work in disadvantaged areas
- Ensure changes to funding do not restrict access to community pharmacists
- Review the rules for exemption from prescription charges to ensure they are fair.
Helping people stay healthy:
- Promote a health and social care system that empowers people to manage their own health
- Publish a National Wellbeing Strategy
- Support effective public awareness campaigns, and learn from what works
- Keep public health within local government, re-instate the funding cut from public health budgets
- Childhood obesity strategy
- Information on calorie, fat, sugar and salt content in restaurants/takeaways
- Mandatory targets on sugar reduction for food and drink producers
- Reduce smoking rates, minimum unit pricing for alcohol
- Public campaign on how people can improve their own mental health
- Support good practice among employers in promoting wellbeing.
While it’s clear that they all believe more needs to be done to support the NHS, and that change is needed in several areas, they differ in the way they would raise money and where they would spend it, and have different priorities. In terms of staff, only Labour explicitly states it will boost the numbers of health visitors and school nurses, while both Labour and the Liberal Democrats pledge to end the current pay cap.