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‘No prospect’ for avoiding major NHS crisis without change of direction

Without a change in direction by the government following yesterday’s general election that led to a hung Parliament, there is “no prospect” of avoiding a major crisis in the NHS, according to the Patients Association.

The organisation stated this morning that the problems facing the health and social care sector “will not hold off while Westminster politics sorts itself out into a more workable shape or adapts to the new political landscape – it will come whether our politicians are ready for it or not”.

In what was a difficult night for the Conservatives, the prime minister faces ending up with 12 fewer seats than when she called the election. The current forecast is that the Tories are set to get 319 seats, Labour 261, the SNP 35 and the Lib Dems 12. An overall majority requires 326 seats. It has also been speculated that her party may seek an informal arrangement with the Democratic Unionists Party, which won 10 seats in Northern Ireland.

The Patients Association, like other organisations in the NHS, advised the government to show leadership on funding by committing to increase the share of GDP spent on health and social care to the levels recommended by the Barker Commission and the Office for Budgetary Responsibility.

“We strongly urge the government to take a hard-headed approach to Brexit that recognises the many practical dangers that would arise from getting it wrong,” it added. “It must aim for a transitional deal, guarantee the rights of existing health and social care workers in the UK, secure the ability to recruit further numbers, stay as firmly as possible in the necessary markets for medicines and materials, and under no circumstances walk away from talks without a deal.”

Dr Eric Watts, chair of Doctors for the NHS and a consultant haematologist, added that two political parties now have the chance to save the NHS “as the people of this country clearly want them to do”.

We ask the new government to make this a top priority, and not let it drop from the political agenda as Brexit and security come to the fore,” he said. “This is all the more important in coalition governments, where conflicting priorities are more likely.”

And Janet Davies, CEO and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, argued that no matter which government is formed, it has more than Brexit to resolve in the months and years to come.

“The next prime minister must not become consumed by those negotiations to the detriment of patients and the people who care for them,” she stated. “In the time it takes to negotiate Britain’s exit, the NHS will fall further into disrepair unless the government begins to listen.

“Health and care services must be a greater priority for this government than they were for the last. They must be funded to a higher level and we must see action on election promises, especially around mental health and the right to remain for health and care workers from across the EU.”

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