Health and social care election tracker
How did health and social care issues shape the political landscape in the run-up to the 2015 UK general election?
Think tanks call for a 'dose of realism' from parties
The chief executives of two leading health and care think tanks call for a ‘dose of realism’ from the parties about their NHS funding pledges. Writing jointly to the Guardian, Chris Ham of The King’s Fund and Nigel Edwards of the Nuffield Trust say that ‘promises of jam tomorrow are not enough’ given the immediate pressures facing the service. They also caution that the £8 billion quoted as the amount needed by the NHS is ‘the bare minimum’ needed to maintain standards of care.
Greens reveal plans for government
The Greens promise to end ‘health service austerity’ and the ‘creeping privatisation of the NHS’ as leader Natalie Bennett and Caroline Lucas, the party’s sole MP, present their election manifesto.
Many of the party’s policies receive their first public airing, including a pledge to increase NHS funding by £20 billion a year by 2020. This is matched by commitments to restore the proportion of NHS spending on primary care to 11 per cent, and to spend an extra £9 billion a year to provide social care free at the point of use in line with the recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Health and Social Care. The manifesto also restates the party’s commitment to introduce an NHS Reinstatement Bill to abolish competition and the commissioner–provider split, and restore the Health Secretary’s responsibility to provide a comprehensive health service.
Parties clash over NHS in TV debate
Party leaders trade blows on health policy as they set out their priorities in the only head-to-head debate of the campaign. In the televised discussion, Ed Miliband urges Britons to use their vote ‘to fight for the future of the NHS’ while David Cameron speaks of his personal experience of using the service, calling it the ‘most important national institution and national public service that we have’. Nick Clegg says that the NHS needs ‘hard cash’, reminding the audience that the Liberal Democrats are the only party so far to have explicitly promised an extra £8 billion a year for it if elected.
Nigel Farage is criticised by other leaders for raising the issue of so-called ‘health tourism’, including the claim that 60 per cent of those diagnosed as HIV positive in the UK each year are foreign nationals. Farage defends his comments two days later, as a YouGov poll finds that half of respondents would support UKIP’s flagship policy of a five-year ban on NHS treatment for those coming to live in the UK from other countries.
MPs introduce 'NHS Reinstatement Bill'
12 MPs present a Private Members’ Bill calling for the re-establishment of the Secretary of State’s legal duty to provide NHS services in England.
The Bill, introduced by Green Party MP Caroline Lucas and backed by Labour, Liberal Democrat, SNP and Plaid Cymru MPs, would dismantle much of the present architecture of the NHS by abolishing NHS England, CCGs and NHS trusts and transferring their responsibilities to regional committees of a new national health authority. It would also restrict the role of private companies in the NHS, abolish Monitor and repeal the legal framework governing competition in the NHS.
The Bill has no chance of becoming law but its supporters say they will challenge candidates from all parties to say whether they support the Bill during the election campaign.
Health policy a central issue on Rochester and Strood by-election trail
Health is a high-profile issue in the Rochester and Strood by-election, caused by the defection of Conservative MP Mark Reckless to UKIP. Politicians and commentators are watching events closely for an indication of the public’s priorities and mood ahead of the general election.
In an October poll, voters in the constituency identified the state of local NHS services as the most important issue facing them and their families, ahead of issues such as immigration, crime and employment.
Some of this debate has focused directly on the local hospital, Medway Maritime Hospital. This has been in special measures since July 2013, with regulators judging that it had made ‘no progress’ by July 2014.
A year to go to the election
With a year to go until the general election, comparatively little is known about how the party manifestos will shape up. All the main parties are currently consulting their members on the policies that will eventually make up their manifestos.
We know most about where Labour are heading – their health offer is likely to focus on their proposals for whole person care, although some significant questions remain about how this will be implemented and paid for. The Lib Dems are beginning to differentiate themselves from their coalition partners by setting out their own policy positions – expect more of this as polling day draws nearer. We know least about how the Conservative manifesto will shape up – the way their policy process works means that little will be revealed before their party conference in the autumn. Among the other parties, UKIP’s health policy remains a blank slate, other than a requirement for migrants and visitors to the UK to show proof of health insurance as a condition of entry, while the Green party have pledged to ‘restore the NHS to public ownership’ and introduce free personal care for older people. Finally, this election will see a new name on some ballot papers, with the National Health Action Party pledging to field up to 50 candidates.