Responding to the publication of the Conservatives' manifesto, Dr Jennifer Dixon, Chief Executive at the Health Foundation, said:
‘The absence of any clear policy on social care in today’s manifesto is a shameful omission for a party that’s been in power for nearly a decade. After almost one thousand days since a green paper was announced and one hundred days since Boris Johnson promised to fix social care once and for all on the steps of Downing Street, this can only be described as a wasted opportunity.
‘We have a promise that no one will have to sell their home to pay for their care, should the Conservatives remain in power, but no idea who would foot the bill instead. While cross-party consensus will be critical to any reform succeeding, there is a clear risk that there will be further delay and no hard decisions taken for the future. With a £4.1bn funding gap to contend with, the one thing that this manifesto does guarantee, is that the can would yet again be kicked down the road and more people would suffer without adequate care as they wait for the government to come up with a viable solution. We needed a plan of action but all we’ve got is more words.
‘There is a welcome recognition of the main challenges facing the health service, including critical workforce shortages. The Conservatives have promised to recruit 6,000 GPs and 50,000 more nurses. But even with major improvement in training, recruitment and retention, we have projected that almost half of the 50,000 nurses promised would have to be recruited from other countries. This will be challenging and means migration policy must not be a barrier. And with the number of qualified permanent FTE GPs having decreased by around 5% since the last target was set, there must be realism about what can be achieved in the timescales set out.
‘The Conservatives’ overall funding commitment for the NHS amounts to annual increases below the 3.4% needed just to maintain current standards of care in the face of rising demand, and far short of the 4% needed to deliver the improvements promised in the long term plan for the NHS, according to our projections with the IFS. And while announcements of funding for hospital buildings and nurse student maintenance grants are welcome, their piecemeal nature leaves key areas of the health service without the long-term certainty and financial breathing room they need. Without this, service providers will continue to struggle to plan for improvements as money is funnelled to meet the growing demand on day to day resources.
‘The health secretary has said that prevention of ill health is a priority for his government, but the focus for the Conservatives continues to be on NHS front line services that manage acute health care needs, over less visible areas of public spending that help people live healthier lives and keep them out of hospital in the first place. The £1bn in cuts to the public health grant since 2015/16 will go unaddressed, and beyond health care, there is no reversal of reductions in social security which are expected to increase child poverty, while promised national insurance cuts will do little to boost the incomes of the poorest families.’
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