Labour Announce Their Health Policy
The Labour Party have today promised to invest heavily in the NHS if they win the General Election on 12th December. Under Labour, the NHS budget would rise to £155bn by 2023-24 – £6bn a year more than the Conservatives promised last year. This ‘Rescue Plan’ includes NHS capital expenditure rising to the international average, £1bn a year for training and education and a further £1bn to fund a major expansion of public health services, with a focus on prevention measures.
The ‘Rescue Plan’ Outlined:
• Increasing the total Department of Health and Social Care budget to £178bn in 2023-24 – an average annual increase of 4.3%;
• Increasing the NHS England resource budget to £154.9 billion in 2023-24 to restore constitutional standards on waiting times and access, including ensuring 95 per cent of patients are treated within 18 weeks;
• Guarantee a greater priority for mental health and wellbeing than ever before with an extra £1.6 billion NHS spending per year to fund counselling services for schools, community mental health hubs for young people. This includes a pledge of £845 million per year for a ‘Healthy Young Minds’ plan that will put a qualified counsellor into every school across the country;
• Free prescriptions and car parking, the costs of which are not included in these figures;
• Increase NHS capital budgets by £15 billion over a Parliament to rebuild NHS hospitals and community facilities and clear the maintenance backlog, funded from Labour’s Social Transformation Fund;
• Provide a new £2 billion strategic mental health infrastructure fund to abolish dormitory wards and make every inpatient setting safe for patients, invest in more beds to end out of area placements and roll out a fleet of crisis ambulances;
• Invest an extra £2.5 billion to overhaul the primary care estate so that GPs can deliver better local care in their communities;
• Provide an extra £1.5 billion to increase the numbers of CT and MRI scanners to the OECD average to radically improve diagnostic capacity and improve cancer outcomes;
Staff and public health
• Invest £1 billion in restoring a training bursary for nurses and Continuing Professional Development to help recruit 24,000 extra nurses as well as extra midwives and allied health professionals;
• Expand GP training places to 5000 to create 27 million more appointments with family doctors;
• Invest in mental health support for NHS staff;
• Deliver a £1 billion increase in the annual Public Health budget including an extra £100 million for addiction services, an extra £100 million for obesity services, an extra £100 million for public mental health services, £75 million for sexual health services.
Reaction and Analysis
As expected, the Tories have said the plan, combined with Labour’s plans for a shorter week, would ‘cripple the economy and cost the NHS billions every year.’ Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Luciana Berger has also criticised the plan saying, ‘Labour’s announcement completely misses the point. They are ignoring the fact that Brexit is the biggest threat to the NHS.’ With that said, NHS leaders have welcomed the proposals. NHS Confederation have said the pledges represent significant extra investment on top of what has already been set out by the Government.
Both Labour and the Conservatives’ health policy has been relatively similar in this election so far. They are both looking to increase the overall health budget, with Labour offering 4% more by 2023-24 for the front line. Aside from free prescriptions and car parking (which are not Tory policies) both parties are set to train extra staff while also investing in new buildings and equipment. With that said, Labour’s special focus on mental health has not been mirrored by the Tories. As for the Liberal Democrats, they have yet to release any significant detail on their health policies but have said they will raise extra money for mental health, public health and social care.