How the Tories have misled the public on NHS pledges
Sometimes politicians make promises they cannot fulfil, however the Tories record on misleading claims about the NHS leaves a lot to be desired.
Attempts to deflect from their record on spending and restoring health care in England have wracked up, here are five times the Tories have lied about the NHS.
Waiting list lies
This week we saw Rishi Sunak admit he failed to cut waiting lists in the NHS, one of his top campaign priorities.
Only a week previous he had written a column for The Telegraph claiming that the government had got 18-week waits down by 90%. This was debunked shortly after. Full Fact found that 18-week waits for non-emergency NHS treatment in England had in fact risen by 4-9% since the government pledged to reduce the waiting lists. It turns out he may have been talking about 18-month waits.
People are typically waiting longer for treatment than they did a year ago, in 2023 the waiting list for treatment stood at 7.7 million.
Strikes to blame
After admitting failure, Sunak was quick to throw striking NHS workers under the bus and claim industrial action was to blame for long waiting lists, a common narrative used by Tory MPs of late to blame strikers for problems in the NHS.
Health experts have stressed that only a tiny fraction of people on waiting lists would have had appointments had strikes not happened, and other experts have argued how austerity and worker shortages are more to blame for the increased waiting lists. Summed up by one professor who pleaded to the public to ‘please, look at the evidence’.
6,000 extra doctors
Tory health secretaries have made repeated pledges that they will increase the number of doctors in England over the years. However these have all turned out to be false assertions. By 2019, MPs were making the pledge for a fifth time, again promising 6,000 new doctors by 2024/25, made up of half extra fully qualified GPs and half trainees.
Jeremy Hunt, Former Health Secretary, had made a pledge in 2015 to increase the GP workforce by 5,000 by 2020.
However, GP numbers have actually dropped every year in England since then, with reports showing there were 1,500 less GPs in 2022 than 2015. It looks likely the latest pledge will be yet another false promise.
Record NHS spending
During his time as Prime Minister, Boris Johnson was accused of ‘cash bombing’ the electorate with misleading funding figures and erroneous claims about NHS funding.
Multiple times in his campaign, Johnson claimed the Tories would be giving the NHS its “biggest increase in modern memory in the NHS”, as he pledged to spend £34 billion.
However, his memory clearly didn’t stretch too far. Fact checkers found this amounted to a real terms increase of £20.5 billion between 2018/19 and 2023/24, adjusting for inflation. With the previous time spending increased by at least that amount was between 2004/05 and 2009/10.
Johnson also announced a £1.8 billion one-off cash boost to NHS hospitals in England. However this soon unravelled as the PM was then accused by both health experts and the opposition party of misleading the public over whether the money was really ‘new’, as he claimed, and not just a reversal of cuts trusts were asked to make before.
40 new hospitals
Yet another broken pledge, the government promised it would deliver 40 new hospitals however the most recent committee review warned it had no confidence that the government can deliver the promise.
The initial number was a lie, as it is also unlikely that the 32 new hospitals now aimed for completion in 2030 will happen either. Whilst out of these 32 projects, only 11 were said to actually qualify as “whole new hospitals” by the National Audit Office.
Hannah Davenport is news reporter at Left Foot Forward, focusing on trade unions and environmental issues