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Healthcare leaders call out political parties on NHS pledges

Big on ‘impressive’ commitments, but short on credible plans to deliver them, they argue

Caroline White

Monday, 09 December 2019

Healthcare leaders have called out the political parties on their pledges for the NHS, arguing that while they are big on "impressive commitments", they are short on credible plans to deliver them and tackle the major challenges facing health and social care.

In a blog* posted today, Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents the organisations delivering care in the NHS, concludes that: “Once again we see politicians responding to popular support for the NHS, presenting themselves as its advocates and champions but not really addressing what’s needed to sustain the NHS long-term.

“Health service staff and leaders… need more support, more realism and more forward thinking from a political class which has once again talked a good game, but ducked too many of the big tackles.”

There had been many “impressive sounding commitments,” he writes, but with little evidence that some of the major challenges the NHS faces are going to be met.

The growing demand / capacity gap manifest in the delays people face in accessing the treatment they need is registering in terms of public satisfaction with the NHS, which is now at its lowest level in a decade, he writes.

While the NHS has a long-term plan to make up for that lost decade of capacity growth and to modernise the way care is provided “we need our politicians to articulate clearly and honestly what it will take to deliver the full vision, recognising the need as well to strengthen social care and public health.”

But so far, they haven’t.

The extra funding pledges are welcome, but in reality simply don’t go far enough.

“We needed our politicians to be realistic about the scale of the challenge, and either fund it accordingly or be honest about how far the extra funding would go. That’s not happened,” he writes.

And while the parties have signed up to boosting the headcount, it’s far from clear how they will actually deliver it, he says.

There has also been a genuine opportunity for parties to tackle “the scandal of our overstretched, underfunded social care services” which affect the future sustainability of the NHS.

“The offers from the main parties have varied in scope and ambition, but none has developed a compelling worked-through and credibly funded long-term solution,” he laments.

*Politicians and the NHS – they’ve ducked the big tackles. Chris Hopson, Chief Executive NHS Providers, 9 December 2019.

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