Will Boris Johnson deliver 50,000 more NHS nurses?

Election 2019

Political commentators have often said that if a major political party can deliver a manifesto and not have people still talk about it two days later, then its launch has been a success. This is because manifesto’s represent a political banana skin, an opportunity for proposed policy to be dissected and scrutinised to such a level that it can derail a campaign. Survive unscathed, and your route to power becomes a little clearer. If you don’t believe us, just ask Theresa May.

This year, the Conservative manifesto seems to have learnt the lessons of 2017. There were few surprises from a manifesto that looks to only reiterate the tag lines we have heard so many times since Mr Johnson gained the keys to number 10 back in July.

However, one of the few fresh policies has caused Boris problems. Initially the new Conservative promise of 50,000 extra nurses over the next parliamentary term was welcomed. Upon closer inspection, it has been exposed by experts as ‘misleading’ and subsequently ridiculed by the opposition parties.

The issue lies in the fact that the Tories are not promising 50,000 newly trained as one might have assumed. It is now understood that while 14,000 of the extra nurses are to come from training, 18,500 will be retained through improved retention of existing staff, 12,500 will come from abroad, and around 5,000 of the whole figure will come from on-the-job apprenticeships that allow care workers to earn nursing degrees.

Opposition figures likes shadow health secretary Johnathan Ashworth have said, ‘the Conservatives claim on nurses is frankly deceitful – the sums simply don’t add up.’ The Liberal Democrats described it as ‘dishonest.’ The Tories maintain that together these figures mean we will see a boost in nurse numbers in NHS hospitals from 280,000 to 330,000 by the end of parliament – thus the 50,000 statistic.

It is likely this story will go away. The Conservatives have a just about a strong enough argument to brush this one under the carpet. However, it will also feed into a narrative that continues to plague Mr Johnson: why should people trust him and is he misleading the masses?