Health bodies slam Tory funding pledges for NHS as ‘smoke and mirrors’

Health organisations have today stated that measures set out in the Conservative Party’s manifesto today will do nothing to fix the problems facing health and social care and ensure long-term sustainability for the NHS.

Launching her party’s plan, Theresa May pledged to invest a minimum of £8bn extra funding in real terms over the next five years. The manifesto also stated that guaranteeing the working status of the NHS’s EU workforce would be a “top priority,” during Brexit negotiations.

And to combat the troubles facing social care, May promised extra funding for the sector on top of other measures including means testing for elderly people which would mean those with assets worth more than £100,000 would have to pay for their own care.

BMA – manifesto does nothing to reassure patients and staff

The British Medical Association (BMA) stated that the party’s commitments will “do nothing to reassure patients and NHS staff that they have the vision the NHS needs or will deliver the funding to ensure its survival”.

“The extra £8bn touted in this manifesto for the NHS is smoke and mirrors – rather than extra money, this essentially extends the funding already promised in the 2015 spending review for another two years and falls far short of what is needed,” said Dr Mark Porter, chair of the BMA.

He also stated that with the NHS already at breaking point, a lack of investment will just lead to even longer delays, compromised care and struggling services.

“Providing additional care across the week requires not just more funding, but more doctors, nurses, diagnostic and community care staff, otherwise exiting staff will be stretched even more thinly than they already are,” Dr Porter added.

While it was encouraging to see that the party will seek assurances for EU staff working in the NHS as part of Brexit negotiations, Dr Porter added that the emphasis on training future doctors in the UK will not solve the current workforce crisis.

“Any future government must address the reasons why so many UK-trained doctors are considering leaving the NHS rather than forcing doctors to stay in the health service. Demotivated, burnt-out doctors who don’t want to be in their jobs, will not be good for patients,” he said.

“Addressing the crisis in our health service must be a priority for the next government, but based on today’s proposals it looks as though the NHS is facing more of the same,” Dr Porter concluded. “The question is how long the NHS can survive ongoing, chronic underfunding and at what point services are simply no longer able to cope.” 

Plan does not offer long-term solution for social care

The Nuffield Trust was also disparaging about the Conservative’s promises for health and social care.

“The pledge of a further £8bn by 2022-23, above 2017-18 spending, does not get us to a long-term funding settlement to support this,” said Nuffield Trust chief executive Nigel Edwards. “It is unclear how much new money this represents, or exactly when it would come onstream. We do not yet know whether promises of upgrades for buildings and IT will be backed by new spending: the pledge does not apply to the £13.5bn of health funding not held by NHS England.”

He added that even a “a generous interpretation” of what will happen to the other budgets, will lead to the share of Britain’s national income going to the NHS shrinking from 7.3% to 7%.

“The same is the case for the other parties’ proposals as well: we are on course for more than a decade of unprecedented austerity,” Edwards added. “The manifesto is right to focus on the NHS workforce as a pressing issue, and the intention to allow NHS staff from the EU to stay in Britain is vital. However, this must be accompanied by a plan to allow continued migration after 2019 or to replace these workers.”

The Nuffield Trust CEO also stated that underfunding in the social care system meant that patients faced a postcode lottery on the quality of care that they can receive. “Unfortunately, the proposals in this manifesto will do nothing to solve these problems. This is not a long-term solution, and the next government will have to continue to look for one.”

Top Image: Danny Lawson PA Wire

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