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What healthcare policies can Britain expect from its next government?




What healthcare policies can Britain expect from its next government?

With less than three weeks to go before Britain elects its next government, the main political parties have released their key campaign promises.

At a time when the nation’s public health system is struggling with enormous wait times for emergency rooms, elective procedures, dentistry and more, each party’s health policy is critical to voters.

In fact, health is often the most important topic British audience.

So who are the main parties in Britain and what are their health plans?

The main political parties

The three main parties are the Conservatives, led by Rishi Sunak, the Labor Party, led by Keir Starmer, and the Liberal Democrats, led by Ed Davey.

The Conservatives – often referred to as the ‘Tories’ – had been in power for 14 years when Sunak announced an early election last month. Although they won the last general election in 2019 with a large majority, the people of the party have has fallen sharply over the past three years. Traditionally it has been on the right side of the political spectrum.

The left-wing Labor Party last led the government under Gordon Brown in 2010, when they lost to the Conservatives’ David Cameron and the Liberal Democrats’ Nick Clegg. The party has undergone significant turmoil in recent years following the replacement of former leader Jeremy Corbyn by the more centrist Starmer.

The Liberal Democrats are a smaller, centrist party known for their pro-European values. Their popularity waned in early 2010 after their Conservative-led coalition government significantly increased university tuition fees.

But a stunt-filled campaign by current leader Ed Davey (with roller coasters, obstacle courses, paddleboards and dinosaur statues) has captured the nation’s attention. Polls show the Lib Dems are on track to make significant gainsbut they are likely to remain in the shadow of the other two major parties.

What do the parties promise in the field of health?

British parties publish detailed manifestos setting out their policy proposals in the run-up to the general election.

According to them manifestothe Conservatives want to increase the role of pharmacists as primary health care providers, improve and expand GP facilities and build dozens of new community-based diagnostic centres.

They also say they will train tens of thousands of new nurses and doctors over the next five years, as well as more doctors such as paramedics and dentists. The plan to eliminate approximately 5,000 management positions is controversial.

The party says it is delivering on promises made by previous Conservative governments, building dozens of new hospital buildings that former Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised in 2020 and pushing through legislation that will effectively prevent many teenagers from ever buying tobacco products.

The Labor Party say the government would provide an additional 40,000 publicly funded operations, appointments and scans every week to help improve waiting times.

The party promises to modernize digital healthcare systems, the aging hospital complex and imaging technology, doubling the number of CT and MRI scanners.

It also promises to make childbirth safer and close the mortality gap between black and Asian mothers and their white peers. Black and Asian women in Britain are currently much more likely to die during childbirth

Like the Conservatives, Labor plans to recruit more dentists and provide more dental appointments. The party also pledges to hire thousands of additional mental health workers and address racial disparities in mental health detentions.

It aims to halve the gap in healthy life expectancy between those living in the most and least deprived areas by tackling social determinants of health.

The Liberal Democrats pledge to give members of the public the right to see a GP within a week, with an additional 8,000 GPs being employed to achieve this target.

They have similar aims for dentistry and cancer, promising to ensure that all cancer patients start treatment within 62 days of an urgent referral to hospital and to ensure that anyone requiring urgent or emergency dental treatment receives a publicly funded dentist can see.

The party wants to reduce waiting times for mental health care by introducing community hubs for young people and standard mental health checks.

Like Labour, the Lib Dems focus on public health and social determinants of health, such as poverty. They want to increase healthy life expectancy by five years.

All three parties are promising to invest in social care services and staff, with Labor even promising to set up a ‘National Care Service’ to complement the existing National Health Service.

What is actually going to happen?

Reducing wait times for electives and emergency care will likely be a key goal for any new administration.

Pre-election polls strongly suggest Labor is winning and the Liberal Democrats are experiencing significant growth. So it’s fair to assume that Labor policy is the only thing we need to pay attention to. But whoever steps in, how closely they will stick to their manifesto is much harder to predict.

Healthcare think tank the Nuffield Trust says all three parties are promising more than they can realistically finance. Many proposed policies will likely shrink in size or simply never make it to the table.