Amid reports that the Coalition will leave office with the NHS in the red for the first time in 10 years, the future of the NHS looks undecided in the run up to one of the closest elections in decades.
Half of all hospitals have run up a deficit – mainly spent on expensive agency staff such as bank nurses and doctors in a bid to improve safety and care of patients in the wake of the Mid- Staffs scandal.
There seems to be a very real risk that it will become the norm for departments such as A&E to miss targets as it is unclear what hospitals can do to bring the waiting times down.
This statement comes from an assessment of the NHS by the Kings Fund, which is an English health charity that shapes health and social care policy.
With the General Election imminent, what are the main parties promising in terms of the NHS? We took a look at what their policies said about the NHS:
Conservatives have stated that “We cannot have a strong NHS without a strong economy” and vow to ring-fence and ‘protect’ the NHS budget with spending to rise in line with inflation. They have pledged an extra 2 billion a year for front line services – as a ‘down-payment’ on the shortfall. They have not specified where this money will come from but have said that 300 million will be spent each year on modernising GP surgeries across the country, paid for by fines paid by banks following the Libor rate-rigging scandal.
For more information on the policies of the Conservatives please visit: www.conservatives.com
Labour has highlighted the need for more staff in the NHS and said they will spend an extra 2.5 billion a year. This will primarily be funded by mansion tax, tax avoidance measures and a windfall tax on tobacco companies. However, it is unlikely that the extra funds will be available until 2017-18, as it would take time to raise the revenue. The NHS is a key policy for Labour and they have vowed the extra funds will not come from “borrowing any more money or taxing ordinary working families any more”.
For more information on Labour’s policies please visit: www.labour.org.uk
Liberal Democrats intend to meet ‘in full’ the extra 8 billion required by the NHS by 2020. This will mainly be funded by reducing tax relief and increasing tax rates on share dividends for high earners. Mental health is a priority for the Liberal Democrats and they plan to spend 500 million on this service, whilst pooling health and social care budgets. They also intend to increase health spending to collaborate with economy growth.
To learn more about the policies of the Liberal Democrat party please visit: www.libdems.org.uk
UKIP are not intending to pledge any extra money to the NHS but instead focusing on reprioritising what the NHS does. Nigel Farage has hinted at getting rid of the NHS and has mentioned implementing an insurance-based system. They are also looking to ensure that all visitors and migrants to the country have a NHS-approved medical insurance in place, which could go as far as saving 2 billion a year. In turn, some of this saving will be earmarked for ending hospital car parking charges.
To find out more about the policies of UKIP please visit: www.ukip.org
Whatever the outcome of the General Election, it is apparent that there are issues that need to be addressed in order for the NHS to cement itself in Britain’s future for years to come.