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Politicians warned not to let Brexit dominate the general election

Bring NHS spending in line with other leading EU countries, says BMA

Mark Gould

Tuesday, 02 May 2017

Launching its election manifesto today, the BMA has warned politicians that they must not duck the "crisis in NHS" to focus on a "Brexit election".

In the manifesto, entitled ‘A vote for health’, BMA council chair, Dr Mark Porter, warned that it would be all too easy for this election to become the “Brexit election” and little else, at a time when the health service needs the unrelenting focus of politicians from all parties.

The manifesto calls for politicians to:

  • Commit to a long-term funding solution for the NHS, by increasing spending on health from 9.8% to 10.4% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), bringing it in line with other leading EU economies; 
  • Address the pressures across the healthcare system that prevent the delivery of high-quality, safe patient care;
  • Ensure the health service is a priority during Brexit negotiations;
  • Stabilise general practice in the face of soaring demand, a critical shortage of GPs and excessive bureaucracy;
  • Take urgent action to improve the health of the population and reverse cuts to public health.

The NHS is facing a funding shortfall of £30 billion by the end of 2020 and the BMA says recent performance figures show the NHS has endured one of the worst winters on record, with patients waiting longer for ambulances, treatment and admission.

Dr Porter said: “Despite having one of the best health care systems in the world, years of underinvestment in the face of rising patient demand means the NHS is now failing too many patients, too often. Our hospitals and GP surgeries are full, social care is on its knees, with staff working under impossible conditions. This election is being fought against the backdrop of one of the worst winters on record for the NHS, with doctors reporting funding cuts and concerns over patient care and safety.

“Whoever leads the next government must ensure that NHS funding keeps pace with other European nations, that the NHS and EU doctors in the UK are protected from the impact of Brexit, that general practice is properly supported, that policies protect and enhance the public’s health, and that the pressures impacting the day-to-day delivery of high-quality, safe care are tackled."

In its manifesto, also launched today, the NHS Confederation, which represents NHS trusts, has called on political leaders to pledge to spend at least a fixed percentage of GDP linking health spending to the success of the economy.

The Confederation also wants the next government to set up an Office of Budgetary Responsibility for Health and Care to provide independent advice on what level of funding is needed, and a £2 billion-a-year transformation fund to start meeting the immediate needs of the service now. It is also calling for the Department of Health to be replaced by the Department of Health and Care to enable better co-operation between the two sectors.

Confederation chief executive, Niall Dickson, said the UK currently spends 10% of GDP on health and care funding "significantly less than the comparable economies of France and Germany".

"It is time for society as a whole to face up to the health and care challenge and to bring evidence and some certainty to what is one of the greatest challenges facing this country," Mr Dickson said. "This election is understandably going to be dominated by Brexit, but unless we act soon we will face another daunting issue - a health and care system that is simply incapable of meeting modern needs. Already one in eight elderly people in England are being denied the social care support they need and the number of over-85s in the UK, who are the greatest users of health and care, is set to double over the next 20 years."

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