Ahead of a possible general election, what have the parties pledged and where do they fall short?by Jennifer Dixon / October 11, 2019 / Leave a comment
The government is about to announce its legislative agenda. The political uncertainty is immense and no one knows if anything in the Queen’s speech will be implemented. But giventhe NHS comes a constant second to Brexit in the list of public concerns, what might be the priorities for health and social care for this government? Or a new one following a general election?
Some clues come from the recent party conferences. For the Conservatives the main pledge was to “build 40 new hospitals” in England over the next decade costing a cool £13bn—although the reality was that the funding was mainly earmarked for six hospitals with seed-funding for the remainder. These and other commitments to public services would be met by “growing the UK economy” by “raising the productivity of the whole of the UK,” and “not with socialism” as the prime minister made clear. There was nothing specific on fixing social care, but merely another pledge to, in Boris Johnson’s words “solve the problem of social care and end the injustice that means people have to sell their home to pay for their old age.”
For Labour the key commitments were to abolish NHS prescription charges in England (as in the rest of the UK), and end the “scandal” of social care for older people by making personal care free (as in Scotland). In another proposal described as radical in parts of the press, a public sector medicines company would be set up to manufacture cheaper drugs, and compulsory licensing for some new medicines would be introduced to secure cheaper generic versions of patented medicines. These and other commitments weren’t costed but the top 5 per cent of earners would face higher taxes to pay for them.
The Liberal Democrats have published a 50 page policy document detailing how Brexit would damage the NHS and social care services and why it should be stopped. A specific pledge to raise 1p extra in the pound via general taxation would bring in £6bn to spend on a set of priorities: top of the Lib Dem pile is mental health services. There was also a proposal to establish a commission to set a “realistic” funding settlement for the NHS and social care.