Health and social care election tracker
How are health and care issues shaping the political landscape as we head towards the 2017 general election?
House of Commons passes Queen’s Speech
MPs vote for the Queen’s Speech, which sets out the government’s agenda for the parliamentary session, by a margin of 323 to 309.
To head off a possible backbench rebellion and defeat on an amendment tabled by Stella Creasy MP with cross-party support, the government pledges to allow women from Northern Ireland access to pregnancy terminations on the NHS in England. Terminations are only legal in Northern Ireland in cases where there is a serious risk to a woman’s health.
Conservatives and DUP reach confidence-and-supply agreement
The Conservative Party and Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) reach an agreement that will see the DUP vote with the government in parliament on confidence motions, the Queen’s Speech, Budgets and finance bills, as well as on legislation concerned with Brexit and national security. The deal includes a £1 billion package of financial support for Northern Ireland.
The agreement also confirms that the Conservative Party’s manifesto commitments to end the triple lock on pensions and to mean-test winter fuel payments for older people – the proceeds from which had been earmarked to pay for health and social care – have been dropped.
The parties intend the agreement to last the whole parliament, but will review after two years.
Government’s health and care agenda outlined in Queen’s Speech
The Queen’s Speech confirms the government will publish a Green Paper outlining options for reforming social care. However, controversial proposals around how social care is funded, outlined in the Conservative Party’s manifesto, are absent from the Speech.
The Speech also confirms the manifesto commitment to reform mental health legislation, although it stops short of a commitment to introduce a Bill in the current session.
A draft Bill will be published to place the recently established Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch on a statutory footing. However, there is no mention of the manifesto pledge to legislate to reform the regulation of health care professions.
As expected following Jeremy Hunt’s recent comments, there will not be any legislation in this session to reform the NHS.
New ministerial team at Department of Health confirmed
Philip Dunne is reappointed Minister of State at the Department of Health, a role he first took up in July 2016.
Steve Brine and Jackie Doyle-Price join the team as parliamentary under-secretaries of state. Lord O’Shaughnessy retains his role as parliamentary under-secretary of state representing the Department of Health in the House of Lords.
Ministerial portfolios are yet to be confirmed.
Jeremy Hunt continues as Health Secretary
Prime Minister Theresa May reappoints Jeremy Hunt as Secretary of State for Health.
Junior ministers are still to be appointed. The ministerial team at the Department of Health will see some change because David Mowat, Minister for Community Health Care, and Nicola Blackwood, Minister for Public Health and Innovation, lost their seats.
Conservatives move to form government with support of DUP
After falling short of an overall majority, Theresa May moves to form a government with the support of the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland.
With one seat still to declare, the Conservatives win 318 seats, 8 seats short of an overall majority; Labour have 261 MPs, up 29 from the last election. The Liberal Democrats have 12 seats, an increase of 4.
UKIP leader Paul Nuttall resigns.
The country goes to the polls.
Jonathan Ashworth outlines Labour's NHS plans to the HSJ
In an interview with the Health Service Journal, shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth gives more details about Labour’s pledge to review sustainability and transformation plans. He says the review would be completed by the end of the year, would involve clinicians and the public and ‘won’t stop change happening’. He also discloses that the new regulator tasked with undertaking the review – NHS Excellence – would bring together NHS Improvement with the NHS Leadership Academy.
Questioned about Labour’s NHS funding commitment, Ashworth confirms that an additional £7.4 billion would be provided in the first year of the parliament. This level of spending would be maintained thereafter but could increase depending on the recommendations of a new ‘NHS Office of Sustainability’ which would provide ‘absolute transparency’ in how much funding the NHS needs.
Pressed on the affordability of his party’s NHS plans, he insists that the £37 billion extra funding Labour have pledged over the parliament is enough to deliver all their manifesto commitments including cutting waiting lists, introducing safe staffing ratios, ending the pay cap for NHS staff and reintroducing nurse bursaries.
Manifesto pledges on NHS funding fall short say health think tanks
As polling day approaches, the chief executives of three health think tanks write to The Times highlighting that none of the main political parties have pledged enough to cover even half the £30 billion real-terms annual increase in funding the Office for Budget Responsibility suggests will be needed to meet rising costs by the end of the parliament. Nigel Edwards from the Nuffield Trust, Jennifer Dixon for The Health Foundation and Chris Ham from The King’s Fund point out that the share of national wealth spent on health care would fall under all the parties’ plans.
Meanwhile the Health Service Journal reports NHS leaders are considering controversial measures to reduce costs in 14 areas of the country struggling to meet financial targets. Measures apparently being considered under a new ‘capped expenditure process’ include increasing waiting times for planned care, halting NHS funding for some treatments, closing wards and reducing staff numbers.
Greens commit to free prescriptions
Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the Green Party, promises free prescription medicines for people of all ages. The Party estimates the move would cost around £550 million a year, which it says would be offset by savings from halting the NHS’s internal market.
In England, people aged 17 to 59 currently pay £8.60 per prescription item. Exemptions, eg for hospital inpatients, people with long-term conditions and those in full-time education, mean only a relatively small proportion of items are paid for. In 2015, 89.7 per cent of items were dispensed for free.
Parties’ health spokespeople make pitches on Today programme
Each of the main parties’ health spokespeople are given 30 seconds to set out their plans for the NHS on Radio 4’s Today programme.
The Conservatives’ Jeremy Hunt argues that investment in public services depends on a strong economy and that Theresa May is best placed to negotiate a good Brexit deal that would allow the government to increase NHS spending.
Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth pledges a front-loaded spending increase, a pause in sustainability and transformation plans to allow public engagement, and to repeal the Health and Social Care Act 2012.
Norman Lamb says the Lib Dems would increase health spending by £6 billion a year funded by a 1 per cent rise in income tax; subsequently they would introduce a dedicated health and care tax informed by the recommendations of a new Office for Budget Responsibility-style organisation for health.
Economists cast doubt on parties’ NHS spending plans
Analysts at two independent economic think tanks suggest
political parties’ NHS spending plans fall short of what is likely to be
The Institute for Fiscal Studies finds all three major
parties’ proposals for health spending are ‘well below’ the long-run average of
4 per cent a year growth. The analysis describes the Conservatives’ plans as
‘very tight indeed’ and suggests they ‘may well be undeliverable’ and Labour’s
proposals, while the most generous of the parties, as ‘tight against historic
The National Institute of Economic and Social Research’s analysis highlights that ‘the major political parties seem unwilling to acknowledge the extent of the NHS funding problem that we have’.
UKIP manifesto pledges to ‘defend our National Health Service’
The United Kingdom Independence Party launches its manifesto including commitments to increase NHS England’s budget by £9 billion a year by 2021/22, increase staff numbers through funding additional training places, and ‘create the equivalent of a General Medical Council’ for NHS managers.
On social care, UKIP plans to increase funding by up to £2 billion a year and integrate social care with the NHS. A new Department for Health and Care would oversee the system.
The party also commits to allowing only British citizens and foreign nationals who have paid UK taxes for five consecutive years to access non-urgent NHS care. People not meeting either criteria would be required to take out medical insurance.
Analysts suggest NHS trusts overspent by more than £700 million in 2016/17
The Health Service Journal publishes analysis that suggests NHS trusts will record a combined deficit of £770 million in 2016/17. NHS Providers, the body that represents trusts in England, estimates the overspend will be between £700 and £750 million.
This suggests an improvement on NHS Improvement’s most
recent forecast – that the end-of-year deficit would exceed £870 million – but
it would still be significantly more than the initial target of £250 million
set by national leaders.
NHS Improvement was due to publish its end-of-year report on NHS trusts’ finances and performance at its board meeting on 25 May. Due to purdah, however, publication has been postponed until after the election.
May backs £10 billion capital investment for NHS
Speaking in a BBC interview, Theresa May commits to £10 billion in capital investment to fund the Conservatives’ manifesto pledge to deliver ‘the most ambitious programme of investment in buildings and technology the NHS has ever seen’.
May adds that her Party is ‘backing the proposals in the Naylor report’ – a reference to Sir Robert Naylor’s review of NHS property and estates, published in April. The review identified a capital funding requirement of £10 billion to deliver the service changes set out in the NHS five year forward view and upgrade maintain NHS buildings.
The £10 billion of capital investment is separate from the manifesto pledge to increase NHS spending by a minimum of £8 billion in real terms over the next five years. It is not clear how much of it would be additional public funding – the Naylor review indicated that much of the investment could would come from property sales and private capital, as well as the public purse.
Green Party manifesto pledges to scrap all charges for NHS services
The Greens launch their manifesto with a commitment to making all health and dental services free at the point of use.
On funding, they promise to ‘close the NHS spending gap’ and provide ‘major investment’ in social care, as well as bringing both services together into a single budget.
They also pledge to scrap sustainability and transformation plans and ‘roll back privatisation of the NHS’.
On mental health, the Greens promise to ensure people experiencing mental health crises are treated close to their home.
Theresa May reverses manifesto position on capping care costs
Just four days after launching her party’s manifesto, Theresa May announces that a future Conservative government would introduce an ‘absolute limit’ on people’s liability for care costs.
The unprecedented move follows heavy criticism of the proposals unveiled in the Conservative manifesto, which did not mention a cap on care costs – originally proposed by the Dilnot Commission and included in the Conservatives’ 2015 manifesto – arguing that this would mainly be of benefit to a small number of wealthier people.
The Prime Minister denies a U-turn on the original policy, explaining that the cap would be included in a proposed Green Paper on social care. Asked what level the cap would be set at, Ms May states that this will be a matter for consultation.
The NHS will be as important as Brexit in influencing how people vote
The NHS will be as important as Brexit in influencing how people vote according to Ipsos Mori's latest polling. 43 per cent of respondents identified the NHS as one of the issues that will matter most to them in deciding how they will vote, with 42 per cent saying Brexit. This follows polling published earlier in the month which placed the NHS alongside Brexit at the top of the list of voters' concerns. 48 per cent of respondents identified the NHS as one of the most important issues facing Britain today, the same proportion as Brexit.
Labour promise extra £37 billion for NHS
Labour pledge to spend an extra £37 billion on the NHS over the course of the next parliament. This will include £10 billion in capital funding.
Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth told the Today programme the ‘substantial amount of the money [needed to fund this] will come from increasing the tax take from those earning about £80,000’.
It says the extra funding would guarantee people would be referred to treatment in hospital within 18 weeks and not spend any longer than four hours waiting in A&E.
The proposals would also see a new target to tackle delays in discharging people from hospitals, a one-hour guarantee for the most urgent patients in A&E, and a more ambitious target for cancer referrals.
Liberal Democrats set out plans for mental health care
The Lib Dems announce proposals to improve mental health care. Health spokesperson Norman Lamb says the party is ‘committed to ending the historic injustice against people with mental ill-health’.
The pledges include:
waiting time standards for mental health care
provision for new mothers and people with eating
schools to promote good mental health through training teachers and better
access to counselling
out-of-area placements for acute patients
by the end of 2018
employers to promote staff wellbeing.
The changes would be funded by ring-fencing £1 billion of the additional £6 billion the party plans to commit to health care.
This follows the Conservative Party’s recent announcement of its mental health plans.
Labour manifesto leaked
A draft copy of the Labour manifesto is leaked to the media.
The draft includes proposals to spend more than £6 billion extra per year on the NHS, and £8 billion extra for social care over the whole parliament.
Other policies include reinstating the Secretary of State’s responsibility for the NHS and setting up a new body to oversee and scrutinise health spending. It also proposes guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens working in health and care services.
The leaked version is not yet finalised, as it was due to be agreed at today’s meeting of Labour’s national executive committee and the Shadow Cabinet.
Lib Dems say PrEP should be made available on the NHS
Norman Lamb, health spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, says they would make pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) – a drug which helps prevent the spread of HIV – available on the English NHS to high-risk groups.
While PrEP has been approved for use in Scotland, it is not currently available on the NHS in England. National bodies are undertaking a three-year clinical trial to understand how it can be most effectively rolled out.
The King’s Fund recently published a report on the future of HIV services in England. This called for national bodies to work as quickly as possible to progress from the trial to an implementation plan for PrEP because although the incidence of HIV has fallen overall, it is increasing among some groups.
Greens announce mental health pledges
The Greens announce three pledges aimed at improving the way we approach mental health.
They want to give mental health parity of esteem with physical health; ensure access to psychological therapy within 28 days of being referred; and introduce a new schools-based therapy to address mental health issues earlier.
Labour plan pre-watershed junk food advertising ban
Labour set out proposals that they say will halve the childhood obesity rate within 10 years.
Most headlines focus on Labour’s proposal to ban television advertising of unhealthy foods before 9pm. This sort of advertising is already not allowed from children’s programmes, but Labour’s proposal would extend this to other programmes not specifically aimed at children.
This follows a Health Committee report in March that concluded: ‘The advertising regulators have not sufficiently addressed the scale of the challenge. They could – and should – go further.’
Labour would end NHS parking charges
Labour promise to end NHS parking charges, saying they will fund the pledge by increasing the rate of Insurance Premium Tax for private health care insurance products.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn describes parking charges as ‘a tax on serious illness’, suggesting they place ‘an unfair and unnecessary burden on families, patients and NHS staff’.
It is not the first time Labour have targeted hospital parking. In his 2009 conference speech, then Health Secretary Andy Burnham committed to phasing out parking charges for inpatients, though the policy was not included in Labour’s 2010 manifesto.
Conservatives call for Mental Health Act to be replaced
The Conservatives announce proposals to replace the Mental Health Act 1983.
They want to end ‘unnecessary detention’ of people with mental health problems, and to give new rights to employees who experience mental health issues.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt tells The Andrew Marr Show: ‘We want to stop the fact that you can lose your job for that and suffer discrimination in a way that you would not be able to suffer now if you were disabled, [or had] other conditions.’
This follows Theresa May’s first speech on domestic policy earlier this year, when she said she wants to ‘transform the way we deal with mental health problems right across society’.
Greens pledge ‘walking and cycling revolution’
The Greens propose investing £2 billion in cycle lanes and walking routes.
Their announcement focuses on the environment, but improvements to non-motorised transport are also widely seen as important for public health.
Lib Dems pledge 1p on income tax to fund health and care
The Lib Dems propose increasing income tax by 1p in the £1 to raise more money for the NHS and social care.
The Lib Dems say the proposal, reminiscent of the party’s 1997 election pledge to raise income tax by 1p to increase education funding, would raise an extra £6 billion.
‘This is an average of £3 a week for the average earner in this country,’ says Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, ‘so a pint of beer a week to pay for a health and social care service that will last us from cradle to grave.’
The proposal is part of a five-step plan on the NHS and social care that includes establishing a cross-party health and care convention and introducing an independent body to monitor and report on health and care budgets.
Lamb reveals plans for general practice
In an interview with Pulse, health spokesperson Norman Lamb sets out how the Lib Dems would drop plans to enforce routine seven-day GP appointments across England and increase funding for general practice.
Mr Lamb said a Lib Dem government
would allow GP practices to decide the best way of extending access to
Ashworth calls for moratorium on STPs
Labour call for a moratorium on the NHS’s sustainability and transformation plans (STPs), as well a full review of proposals to change hospital services.
Under the proposal, a new body called NHS Excellence would lead the review, with patients and local communities closely involved.
Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth says: ‘Threats of hospitals being closed, A&E services moved miles up the road, and children’s wards being shut have caused widespread concern and confusion.’
Government ‘must publish’ air pollution plan
The High Court orders the government to publish its plan for tackling air pollution.
The government had argued the plan should be delayed because of the general election, but the High Court decision means it must now be published by 9 May.
With nitrogen dioxide responsible for an estimated 23,500 early deaths a year, Mr Justice Garnham says: ‘Immediate publication is essential.’
Party leaders trade blows at PMQs
The final Prime Minister’s Questions before the election sees Jeremy Corbyn highlight increases in waiting times and delayed discharges from hospital, a result, he says, of Conservative policies.
Theresa May responds by saying that the NHS is treating more patients than ever before, has more doctors and nurses, and is receiving record levels of funding.
Labour pledge NHS pay increases
Labour promise pay increases for NHS staff, with a proposal to end the 1 per cent cap on salary increases.
In a speech to Unison’s conference, Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth also commits to making safe-staffing levels a legal requirement and to reintroducing bursaries for health-related degrees.
May calls a general election
Prime Minister Theresa May shocks political commentators by unexpectedly announcing plans for a general election on 8 June. Making the announcement in Downing Street, Mrs May focuses heavily on Brexit as the reason for the need for an election, and does not mention health or social care.
Shortly afterwards, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn says he welcomes the chance for a general election, making it a virtual certainty that the Conservatives will get the two-thirds majority they need for an election.