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Political manifestos fail to address all NHS concerns

Health leaders say key issues are outstanding

Jo Carlowe

Friday, 17 April 2015

While the political manifestos published this week address some concerns raised by NHS leaders, key issues around finances, workforce, social care and stability, remain outstanding. 

This is the message from the NHS Confederation, which has published a comparative analysis of the different political parties’ views. 

As part of its analysis, the NHS Confederation has looked at whether the manifesto promises made by each party, match the commitments called for by the NHS Confederation and 22 other leading health and care organisations in their 2015 Challenge Prescription for the Election.

Last year, 23 leading organisations across health and care, including the NHS Confederation and Medical Royal Colleges, produced the 2015 Challenge Manifesto, laying out seven challenges politicians could address after the election. This was followed in February with The 2015 Challenge Prescription for the Election, which called on all political parties’ general election manifestos to do the following:

  • prioritise reducing preventable illness and maintaining wellbeing across all public services, and set out how local areas’ efforts on this will be supported
  • detail concrete plans to make mental health services as accessible to people as physical health services by the end of the next Parliament
  • commit to adequate funding for health and social care – including transition funding to enable service change – and the next Government must begin to deliver on this in its first budget and spending review
  • commit to providing the stability and consistency required for local areas to continue to make progress on vital work to reshape care. The principles of the Five year forward view have secured broad support and the next Government should support their implementation as well as avoiding yet another top-down, large-scale structural reorganisation of the administration of the NHS.

Rob Webster, the NHS Confederation’s chief executive, said he was pleased with the impact that the 2015 Challenge Prescription for the Election has had. 

“Many of the parties’ proposals back reductions in preventable illness. There has been an increased focus on achieving parity of esteem between mental and physical health from the parties. There are welcome improvements and commitments signalled by the parties.”

However, he said that some issues had still not been addressed and that these should be priorities for whoever forms the next government. 

Describing the gap between demand and resources by 2020 as ‘at least £30billion - more if you add social care’, he called on political parties ‘to be straight with the public about the huge scale of the savings and increases in productivity required over the next parliament’

“It means we will need to fundamentally change the way we provide care for millions of patients which itself will require funds for “double running” services and investment in estates, IT and innovation.”

He also said plans for social care funding should be clearer and that the next government would need to urgently find a sustainable funding settlement for social care. 

On workforce, Mr Webster called for a move away from ‘arbitrary targets in manifestos for increasing specific sorts of staff.’

“Instead the next government must help facilitate sustainable long-term workforce planning, which meets the needs of local areas. Any promise to increase staff will need to be backed by an appropriate increase in funding for the health service.”

And he called for stability. 

“Whoever starts on the task of implementing their manifesto in government must be mindful of the disastrous impact any centrally driven reorganisation will have on local efforts to improve care. We would urge any incoming government to commit to the principles set out in both the Five Year Forward View and by the 2015 Challenge partnership.”

In conclusion, he said manifesto commitments would need to be ‘backed by concrete action from the next government’. 

“Rhetoric can never be a substitute for reality when it comes to patient care.”

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