General election

Labour launches manifesto ahead of general election — industry reaction

The Labour Party unveiled its manifesto at an event in Manchester yesterday, as Sir Keir Starmer launched his bid to form the next government after the upcoming general election on the fourth of July.

Despite the fact that most of Labour’s policy base had already been announced prior to Thursday, many were still waiting for a surprise reveal, or a rabbit out of the hat, as Starmer put it.

Labour’s five headline pledges include:

  • Cutting NHS waiting times with 40,000 more appointments a week
  • Doubling the number of cancer scanners
  • Launching a new Dentistry Rescue Plan
  • Recruiting 8,500 additional mental health staff
  • Bringing back the family doctor

First steps

That first commitment is backed up by another: patients will not have to wait longer than 18 weeks from referral for consultant-led treatment of non-urgent health conditions. Labour says it can deliver the appointment boost — which is the equivalent of two million more a year — through incentivising staff to make use of evening and weekend hours. Capacity in the independent sector will also be taken advantage of.

The manifesto features an explicit commitment to delivering the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan, as well as regular workforce planning publications across both health and social care. Resetting the government’s relationship with NHS, and trade unions, completes Labour’s route to getting the health service “back on its feet”.


A Fit For the Future Fund is outlined as the vehicle through which the NHS’s CT and MRI scanning capacity will be doubled.

Labour says it wants to mirror the approach adopted during the Covid-19 pandemic which saw collaborators from government, industry and academia join forces. A procurement plan, as part of a wider innovation and adoption strategy, will be developed, clearing the route for products to enter the NHS. This will be coupled with reformed incentive structures to drive innovation and faster regulatory approval for new technology and medicines.

The manifesto also puts on record the party’s commitment to the New Hospitals Programme and building Britain into a clinical trial leader, through faster and more efficient recruitment.

Patient plans

Labour says it wants to put power into the hands of the patients; namely through a revamp of the NHS App — this would include integration of local performance data, vaccination and health check notifications, and medical guidelines.

This is supported by a commitment to close the Black and Asian maternal mortality gap, and to put trusts failing in maternity standards into a programme of rapid improvement. The Red Book record of children’s health will be digitised, while vaccinations for babies and children will become a part of health visits.

The implementation of professional standards and regulations for NHS managers is closely followed by a pledge to establish a new Royal College of Clinical Leadership to champion the voice of clinicians.

Shifting upstream

Labour says resources must be shifted into primary and community care services, first underpinned by expanded access to GPs through more recruits, a modern appointment booking system and the incentivisation for GPs to see the same patient — in turn bringing the family doctor back.

Parallel to this will be a Community Pharmacist Prescribing Service, giving pharmacists more independent prescribing rights when appropriate.

Labour also plans to trial Neighbourhood Health Centres, combining the expertise of GPs, district nurses, care workers, physiotherapists, as well as palliative care and mental health specialists.

Public health measures are also included: chiefly, banning the next generation from smoking; integrating ‘opt-out’ smoking cessation services into hospitals; stopping the advertisement of junk food to children as well as the sale of high-caffeine energy drinks to under-16s.

Reforms to gambling regulation and the Online Safety Act will be delivered, and coroners will be given stronger powers to access information held by technology companies after a child’s death.

The Dentistry Rescue Plan is intended to deliver 700,000 more dental appointments and recruit new dentists to areas most in need. Reforms to the dental contract will be made, focussing on prevention and the retention of the workforce. A supervised tooth-brushing scheme for 3-5-year-olds, also targeting the areas of most need, will be introduced.

Social care, mental health and inequalities

A National Care Service will lead reforms in social care and a Fair Pay Agreement in adult social care which will set fair pay, terms and conditions, and training standards — this will be done in partnership with employers, workers, unions, and government.

Mental health changes centre around recruiting an extra 8,500 new staff, modernising the Mental Health Act, and Young Futures hubs for children and young people in every community.

Health inequality work will be led by halving the gap in healthy life expectancy between the richest and poorest areas in England, prioritising women’s health through NHS reform, and commissioning a new HIV action plan for England.

Industry reaction

“The Labour manifesto sets out commendable ambitions to drive down waiting times, improve GP access and reform social care,” said the Nuffield Trust’s CEO, Thea Stein.

“These are important aspirations but they are let down by a stunning lack of detail on exactly how the party intends to deliver these pledges and tackle some of the most profound problems facing our health and care services in 75 years.”

The King’s Fund’s CEO, Sarah Woolnough, said: “The broad ambitions for health and care set out in Labour’s manifesto tick many of the right boxes. Bolstering out-of-hospital care and focusing on preventing illness as well as treating it would lead to a healthier population and a sustainable health service.

But the individual pledges in the manifesto are, at best, only a policy down-payment on achieving those longer-term reforms. In and of themselves, the specific commitments set out by Labour lack some concrete detail and are unlikely to deliver the scale of change the party is promising.

“The manifesto also makes a number of key commitments without clarity on the spending implications for health and care budgets.”

NHS Providers’ CEO, Sir Julian Hartley, said: "An NHS fit for the future relies on having safe and modern buildings, facilities and equipment. Labour has acknowledged the need for greater capital investment and the importance of this to boosting productivity and cutting waiting lists.

"There's a long way to go — including enabling digitisation of health services on an industrial scale — but by investing in eliminating the £11bn-plus repairs backlog and systematic renewal of NHS facilities, technology and buildings we will improve the quality and safety of patient care and give even greater value for money.”

The NHS Confederation’s CEO, Matthew Taylor, said: “The mission approach that Labour has set out with a focus on driving outcomes could pave the way for a fundamental rethinking of how governments approach health and wellbeing across the country.

“We have been calling for the next government to commit to a cross-government health improvement mission because our members know that 80 per cent of what affects people's health is outside the NHS. This will be key to building the health of the nation.”

Image credit: iStock

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