Responding to the Liberal Democrat manifesto, Dr Jennifer Dixon, Chief Executive of the Health Foundation, said:
‘The Liberal Democrat manifesto plans are a welcome shot in the arm for the NHS, but don’t go far enough on fixing social care.
‘The money would more than double the growth in health spending seen in the last decade – bringing growth back to the long-run average, before austerity set in. This would help the NHS improve standards in the face of rising demand, especially in mental health services.
‘The biggest challenge facing the NHS at present is the acute workforce shortage, running at around 100,000 vacancies. The manifesto acknowledges this will require investment in recruitment, retention and making the NHS an attractive place to work. Yet the funding promised falls short of the amount needed for workforce training, despite chronic staffing shortages. The capital investment proposed will not be enough to upgrade the buildings and equipment needed for a modern workforce to operate effectively. Investment in public health is welcome, but the proposals fall just short of the minimum needed to address past cuts.
‘The manifesto rightly highlights the need to boost prevention, reduce unfair gaps in ill health between rich and poor, and put the objective of health and wellbeing at the heart of government decision making. The plans to increase funding for children’s centres, extend the Soft Drinks Industry Levy and tackle air pollution will all help keep people healthy. The challenge will be making the long list of ambitions a reality.
‘It is disappointing to see that reforming the broken social care system is not a top priority in the manifesto. The pledge to establish a cross-party convention identifying options could help generate consensus for reform and proposing a limit on social care costs borne by individuals is very welcome. The social care system is currently failing some of the most vulnerable people in our society. Yet successive governments have failed to muster the political commitment needed for reform. We urgently need firm action, not just a plan for another plan.’
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