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Election result troubling for health and social care, warns Patients Association

New government returned on platform that raises many concerns for patients, it says

Caroline White

Friday, 13 December 2019

The UK general election result, which saw the Conservatives swept back to power, raises many concerns for patients and gives them little reassurance that the crises facing health and social care will be tackled, the independent charity, The Patients Association has warned.

Rachel Power, its chief executive, said: “The last few days of the election campaign made the extent of the crisis in the NHS plain to see, with reports of patients waiting on trolleys, chairs and floors in hospital corridors, even relatively early in the winter. Mr Johnson’s government has been returned on a platform that raises many concerns for patients, and presents little reassurance.”

She added: “The Conservative Party’s manifesto betrayed his promise to produce a solution to the social care crisis, and contained little, if anything, to help the NHS face what could be its worst winter of modern times.”

John Kell, head of policy at the Patients Association, said: “The government’s proposal to enshrine in law a short measure of new funding will not help it. What it needs is a full funding package to cover the parts of its work not included in the investment announced up to now, plus full funding for social care and all the other public services that are crucial to people’s health and wellbeing.”

He continued: “Instead, bar the modest spending increases at the last Budget, the spending cuts of this decade’s ‘austerity’ are now locked in and will apparently not be reversed.

“The government has not been re-elected on a platform that was honest with the electorate that high quality public services require adequate funding, overwhelmingly from taxation. The prospect of a ‘tax-cutting’ Budget in February is deeply concerning.”

He added that the net result would likely be that patients will continue to experience lengthening waits for appointments and treatments, while the health and wellbeing of the population would continue to worsen as housing, welfare benefits and other vital policy areas struggle with underfunding.

The prime minister’s deal “represents a very ‘hard’ Brexit that is likely to drive up costs for the NHS across many supply chains, for which it has not so far been granted any additional funding.

“The onus is now on Mr Johnson to show how Brexit will deliver the many benefits that he promised the British people it would bring, including how it will enable us to improve the nation’s health, care and wellbeing.”

Rachel Power said that she would write to the prime minister to congratulate him on his victory, and asking him “to set out urgently a coherent vision for health, care and wellbeing, a firm plan on social care, a full funding package for all relevant public services, and details of how Brexit will deliver the benefits that the British people have been promised.”

Meanwhile the British Medical Association (BMA) is calling for decisive action from the new government to tackle NHS pressures and deliver real change for staff, patients and services.

In a letter to the prime minister, BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul outlines the association’s priorities and key areas the new government must address, including: increasing health spending by 4.1% each year; prioritising the workforce – including reform of the punitive pension tax system for doctors; legislating for safe staffing; and mitigating the threat that Brexit poses to the NHS.

Dr Nagpaul commented: “Today is Day One for the government to turn their rhetoric about the NHS delivered on the campaign trail into decisive action that will deliver a health service that’s safe for patients and supportive to staff.

“For years, the NHS has been underfunded, leading to substandard access to care and a desperately overstretched workforce being pushed to the brink. We’re concerned the Conservative commitment falls short of what we’ve asked for to the tune of £6.2bn per year by 2023-24.

“Pledges to increase workforce numbers underline the dire recruitment and retention crisis in the NHS, with 100,000 staff vacancies across the service. The number of full-time GPs has plummeted since a target to increase numbers by 5,000 was set five years ago, so while promises to boost numbers recognise the scale of the problem, politicians must learn from mistakes and broken promises of the past.”

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