The Conservative manifesto does not address Britain's healthcare crisis
The Conservatives have been in power for the last seven years, yet this manifesto 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. The NHS is already at breaking point, and without the necessary investment patients will face longer delays, care will be compromised and services will struggle to keep up.
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.
It is encouraging to see that the party will seek assurances for EU staff working in the NHS as part of Brexit negotiations, but 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.
We warned politicians that introducing the immigration skills charge for overseas NHS workers could take desperately needed money from our already under-funded health service, worsen the current staffing issues, and impact the level of care that hospitals are able to provide to patients.
Rather than heeding our concerns the Conservative party is increasing this risk by doubling the charges, which will take around £7 million a year from the NHS frontline, and charging overseas doctors three times the amount they already pay to use a health service they help to run.
As overseas staff can only be employed if recruitment from the UK and EU has been unsuccessful, it is completely unacceptable for the Conservatives to pledge what is in effect a penalty against trusts for trying to fill staff shortages and maintain safe patient care.
Public health is the ticking time bomb facing the UK yet there is no mention of preventative measures in this manifesto. In England, successive governments have failed to deliver a long-term plan to improve public health, and too often evidence-based public health measures have been kicked into the long grass. We need tighter regulation of the food and soft drinks industry, a minimum unit price on alcohol and support for people to quit smoking but these are notably absent from this manifesto.
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. The question is how long the NHS can survive ongoing, chronic underfunding and at what point services are simply no longer able to cope.
Mark Porter is chair of the British Medical Association
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