The next general election in the UK takes place on Thursday 7th May 2015. Over the past few months, all parties have been campaigning hard to secure votes all over the country. Needless to say, their views differ dramatically on a whole host of different subjects. One area that has received a lot of attention is health care. In this post we will take a look at what the different political parties are promising in terms of health care, whilst also assessing the current public healthcare offering in the country.
The public healthcare system in the UK is known as the NHS. Traditionally the NHS has been viewed as one of the best healthcare systems in the world. However, problems are growing by the day, and more and more flaws are appearing within the UK healthcare system. This is why it has become one of the main areas of debate in regards to the upcoming general elections.
So, what problems are there with the NHS? In short, the main issues arise from the fact that demand outweighs supply by an astronomical amount. Many people will agree that the NHS is understaffed and overworked. Because of this, waiting lists can be very long. There are not enough doctors, nurses and resources to cope with the sheer volume of patient demand, and this is placing a massive strain on the industry.
Because of this, a lot of people are turning towards the likes of international medical insurance. The shortcomings in the public system have forced people to look elsewhere. Expats and locals alike would rather spend their money on quality global health insurance and have the security of knowing they will gain access to the best medical care quickly, as opposed to relying on the state system.
Keeping that in mind, let’s take a look at the health policies that have been presented by the various political policies so far.
When it comes to health care, UKIP are arguably proposing the greatest changes. They state that they will keep NHS free at the point of delivery. However, they have also revealed that they are open to the prospect of an insurance-based system, and they believe this is something that will need to be seriously brought to attention in the near future. UKIP are also proposing that all migrants and visitors that have been in the UK for less than five years have medical insurance that has been approved by the NHS. This means that international health insurance will become a requirement for all new expats.
UKIP have said that they will contribute an extra £3bn per year to the NHS. They will accumulate this money through middle management cuts and by quitting the EU. The party also wants to stop any further use of the Private Finance Initiative (PFI). They will encourage local authorities to buy out their PFI contracts early when it is financially viable to do so. Elected country health boards will replace the Monitor and Care Quality Commission. They have also pledged to stop the £90m spending per annum on breast enhancement operations and gastric bands.
The Liberal Democrats
Next we have the Liberal Democrats, who have allied themselves to the Five Year Forward View, which is a plan that has been put in place by NHS England. The document identifies a £8bn funding gap, which the Liberal Democrats have promised to meet. They are also placing their health policies in the context of increased local control and wider public sector reforms.
When it comes to the funding gap, the Lib Dems will pay this in instalments of an extra £1bn to the NHS per year. How will they accumulate this money? Well, they have several strategies in place, yet this money will mainly come from the fact that high earners are going to be paying more tax.
Half of the £1bn per year is going to go towards mental health. Treatment for first time psychosis amongst young patients will be provided within two weeks. Moreover, people who need therapy for conditions such as depression will be guaranteed treatment within 18 weeks.
A lot of people have accused the Conservatives of brushing this issue under the carpet. Health does not feature in their top six election priorities, which is startling in itself. Instead, they are focusing their campaign on the economy and believe change simply is not up for debate when it comes to the NHS.
Nevertheless, they have proposed a couple of health policies. They aim to recruit 5,000 more doctors and their goal is to make sure that by 2020 everyone is able to see a GP seven days a week.
We have recently touched upon the Five Year Forward View plan by the NHS. The Conservatives are not promising to meet the £8bn as the Liberal Democrats are. However, Chancellor George Osborne has stated that he will put an additional £2bn into the UK’s frontline health services. This is considered a down payment on the Five Year Forward View plan.
The Labour Party has adopted an anti-private sector approach. In January they launched their 10-Year Plan for Health and Care. This plan is centred on opposing competition for NHS contracts. If Labour were to come into power, they would cancel the Health and Social Care Act 2012 in the first Queen’s Speech. Competition would be replaced with a ‘NHS preferred provider’ policy, which means that most use of the private sector would be blocked. Many opposition supporters have remarked that this is a highly unrealistic approach, especially as Labour have made ambitious promises on everything from staff recruitment to cancer tests.
In fact, the party have gone as far as to commit themselves to concrete recruitment numbers. This involves 20,000 more nurses, 8,000 more GPs, 5,000 more homecare workers and 3,000 midwives. How are these people going to be paid for? Well, Labour states that they will use proceeds from their proposed levy on tobacco firms, tax avoidance crackdown schemes and mansion tax. They predict that they will accumulate £2.5bn from these taxes in order to fund more recruitment. There is great risk associated with this approach, especially as the taxes that have been mentioned are highly unpredictable.
Aside from this, Labour state that patients will not have to wait longer than a week for cancer tests and results, whilst they will also be able to get an appointment with a GP within 48 hours. They are also planning to replace the Cancer Drugs Fund with a £330m fund to improve access to radiotherapy, surgery and innovative cancer drugs.
All in all, hopefully you now have a better idea regarding the different health policies that are being proposed by the main contenders in this year’s general elections in the UK. Their views differ dramatically and of course this is an extremely pivotal factor that needs to be taken into account when deciding whom to vote for.