Here, we contrast how the three main UK political parties (Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats) have pledged to address our manifesto points, as well as health and social care more broadly.
At this stage, it is uncertain which of the political parties would commit to our Manifesto point of enabling charity access to patient data for the purposes of research.
Whilst none of the parties have made a clear commitment to this over the next 12 months or so, we will continue to work with all UK Governments and health services to ensure the issue of accessing health data is raised up the political agenda to build vital support and commitments.
Equal access to treatment
A pledge is made in the Conservative manifesto to reduce health inequality, such as by building and funding 40 new hospitals within a decade. Labour explicitly assert that those in deprived areas will receive ‘better access to primary care services’, together with creating a ‘more joined-up’ health and care sector. For the Liberal Democrats, there is recognition of the need to tackle inequalities, and similar to Labour, an eventual desire to ‘bring together NHS, Social Care and public health seamlessly’.
There is consensus about a need to fill vacancies in the NHS. The Conservatives specifically state that they will deliver 50,000 more nurses and 6,000 more GPs, resulting in 50 million more appointments per year. As regards Labour, they will increase training places for GPs, so as to create 27 million extra appointments annually, as well as to ‘invest, train and develop NHS staff throughout their careers’. Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats emphasise that they will train more doctors to ‘end the GP shortfall by 2025’ and deliver a national workforce strategy so that future needs are met.
A Conservative government will see the NHS receive an extra £34 billion a year by the end of the next Parliament – indeed, overall spending for the Department of Health and Social Care under their plans would augment by 3.1% per year in real terms, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS). For Labour, the annual growth rate would be 4.3%, with the Liberal Democrats proposing to raise £7 billion each year in additional income (which the IFS claims would be a 3.8% yearly increase).
All three parties want to introduce a bursary/maintenance grant to train nurses (specified by the Conservatives to be between £5,000 and £8,000 each year).
Together with rolling out ‘cancer diagnostic machines across 78 hospital trusts to boost early diagnosis’, the Conservatives will ‘extend the successful Cancer Drugs Fund into an Innovative Medicines Fund’, enabling access to the most advanced treatments. Under Labour plans, additional MRI and CT scanners will be installed, while there will be further progression of genomics/cell therapies and ‘clinically appropriate prescription of medical cannabis’. The Liberal Democrats would develop this latter idea, with their aim being to set up a ‘regulated cannabis market’, as well as to support further clinical trials for cannabis.
The Conservatives will use a cross-party approach to reform social care, but also inject £1 billion of additional money per year for more staff and ‘better infrastructure, technology and facilities’. In contrast, Labour will create a National Care Service in England, free at the point of use, with an initial focus on caring for older people before extending this to all adults. Among their proposals, the Liberal Democrats will establish a Professional Body for Care Workers, support ongoing training and ‘introduce a statutory guarantee of regular respite breaks for unpaid carers’.
Health policy is yet again a top priority during a general election, with all the main parties making key health and social care commitments. It is clear that the NHS needs much greater investment in workforce and, in particular, the cancer workforce, but also to ensure everyone diagnosed with a brain tumour receives the best standards of treatment and care.
With a new Government in 2020, we will not rest until our priorities are delivered because a cure can’t wait.