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Parties set out election promises on NHS

Promises to cap private earnings and implement 7-day-a-week NHS

Adrian O'Dowd

Monday, 30 March 2015

The main political parties have begun their general election campaigns by making promises on the NHS to woo voters.

Labour has said it will restrict the amount that independent sector providers can earn from providing NHS services if they win at the coming election.

The Conservative Party, meanwhile, has promised it will create a truly seven-day-a-week NHS with patients having access to the same level of care at weekends as that provided during the week.

Labour party leader Ed Miliband announced that he would cap profits at 5% on outsourced healthcare contracts worth over £500,000.

Mr Miliband said Labour would guarantee that local health services were no longer threatened by marketisation and privatisation, that there would be extra investment for the NHS, and that he would repeal the NHS reforms of 2012.

One of the main proposals was to impose a 5% profit cap when private companies or independent organisations provided NHS services and these bodies would also be stopped from “cherry picking” certain services.

The party reiterated its plans to put an additional £2.5bn into the NHS per year to help fund 8,000 more GPs, 20,000 more nurses, 5,000 new homecare workers and 3,000 more midwives.

Mr Miliband said: “With a Labour government there will be a new double-lock to protect our National Health Service, guaranteeing proper funding and stopping its privatisation.

“We will repeal their [government] terrible Health and Social Care Act. Their act effectively forces the competitive tendering of services. A third of all contracts have gone to private providers since it was passed. This doesn’t fit the values of our NHS.”

Prime Minister David Cameron, also speaking at the weekend, said: “For years it's been too hard to access the NHS out of hours, but illness doesn't respect working hours.”

Some resources and key decision makers were not, currently, always there at weekends, he added, saying: “With a future Conservative government, we would have a truly seven-day NHS.

“Already millions more people can see a GP seven days a week, but by 2020, I want this for everyone, with hospitals properly staffed, especially for urgent and emergency care so that everyone will have access to the NHS services they need seven days a week by 2020 – the first country in the world to make this happen.”

Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair, said any proposal to remove the most damaging elements of the act to support more joined up care and prevent the private sector from cherry picking the most profitable services were a step in the right direction.

However, he added: “The BMA wants a publically provided and funded health service, and believes the NHS should always be the preferred provider.

“A commitment of more GPs is vital to meet rising demand on services, especially as more care is being delivered in the community. However, with general practice facing a recruitment and retention crisis we must first address the challenge of getting more doctors to choose to become GPs.

“While extra funding is desperately needed, this announcement falls far short of explaining how the NHS will plug the £30bn gap it faces by 2020.

“Rather than political parties bidding against each other for sticking plaster solutions which don’t go far enough, what is needed is a serious, detailed look at the investment health and social care services will need to cope with rising demand.”

Dr Louise Irvine, a parliamentary candidate for the National Health Action Party – the political party formed by doctors, nurses, and paramedics – said: “We welcome Labour's commitment to reduce the role of the private sector, but it doesn't go far enough, just as their pledge to increase NHS funding by £2.5bn won't stop the NHS from teetering over the cliff-edge.

“A cap on private profits is unworkable. It's easy for private companies to arrange their tax affairs so as to avoid registering profits.”

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