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Election latest: Healthcare promises this week

Election latest: Healthcare promises this week
By Beth Gault
11 June 2024

Over the past week, the three main political parties have continued gradually releasing their plans for leading the country following the general election on 4 July.

We take a look at the main healthcare promises and issues below.


The Conservative party this week unveiled its manifesto, including increasing spending on the NHS above inflation every year, recruiting 92,000 more nurses and 28,000 more doctors. They have also pledged to build a ‘fairer welfare system’, to try and get more people back into work.

In response, Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation said: ‘With almost 3 million people in the UK now economically inactive due to long-term sickness we need to see much greater levels of support offered to those who are not in work due to poor physical or mental health.

‘The health service is already making good progress in this with a number of regional integrated care systems recently selected as WorkWell pilot sites to help boost employment support and treatment available to those who need it, but over time this approach should be widened to provide access to all those who need it.

‘Elsewhere, the Conservative Party’s proposal to introduce a ‘step-change’ in mental health treatment is to be welcomed, as is its recommitment to rolling out mental health support teams to schools and to funding support hubs for young people, as the government announced last year. 

‘And while we welcome any initiative that could help to reduce demand on general practice, including a review of the fit note process, the deeper problem here is that people are sicker than they were with more complex healthcare needs.’

The TV debates have also begun, the first of which featured Conservative leader and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer on 4 June.

Both leaders clashed over the best way to address the healthcare crisis.

To the question how long it would take to fix the NHS, Mr Starmer said it was ‘unforgiveable’ that the NHS was in a worse position now than when the Conservatives came into power in 2010. Mr Sunak however said the NHS was still recovering from the strain of Covid and that waiting lists were coming down.

In a snap poll following the first debate, YouGov found that 51% of viewers thought Mr Sunak performed better than Sir Keir. However, on the NHS, 61% thought Sir Keir performed better.

Conservative pledges on health this week:

  • To build a ‘fairer’ welfare system and save £12bn a year by the next parliament.
  • To expand coverage of mental health support teams from 30% to 100% of schools and colleges in England by 2030.
  • Hire 92,000 more nurses and 28,000 more doctors in the NHS by the end of the next parliament.
  • To expand NHS talking therapies by 30%.
  • To bring forward its tobacco and vapes bill, which was delayed due to the announcement of the general election.

Full Conservative manifesto here


The Labour party has unveiled a child health action plan, which includes promises to cut waiting lists for children, providing mental health support for children in schools and to cut down on smoking and vaping.

Andy Bell, chief executive of Centre for Mental Health, said: ‘We welcome Labour’s focus on a comprehensive plan to boost children’s health. This includes measures to expand mental health support in schools and tackle the known risk factors for poor mental health.

‘In the run-up to the 2024 General Election, all political parties, including Labour, should commit to an ambitious and long-term strategy for mental health, backed by proper funding, to reverse the tide on mental ill-health. This must include investing in a comprehensive system of mental health support for babies, children and young people.’

Labour has also announced it will not reintroduce the pensions lifetime allowance, which the BMA has said will ‘help retain doctors in the NHS’.

BMA pensions committee chair Dr Vishal Sharma said he was ‘really pleased’ that Labour listened to the warnings of the BMA about reintroducing it.

In a post on X, he said that this will give ‘much needed certainty’ to doctors and ‘retain them in the NHS’ and added that Labour must also look at the tapered annual allowance.

The party has also claimed it will honour the government’s pledge to build 40 new hospitals.

Anita Charlesworth, director of research and the REAL Centre at the Health Foundation, said: ‘Labour’s pledge to honour the government’s programme to build new hospitals in areas where they are needed is welcome. However, on its own, this won’t deliver the improved productivity and capacity the NHS desperately needs.

‘Capital investment in the UK has been woefully inadequate, leaving the NHS with crumbling buildings, a lack of capacity, low numbers of essential kit like scanners and underdeveloped IT systems. Over the last decade, the UK would have needed to invest an additional £33bn in buildings, equipment and infrastructure to have matched EU levels of investment.  

‘The next government will need to commit to sustained, long-term investment and a once-in-a-generation capital settlement to address the NHS’s crumbling infrastructure.’ 

Labour promises this week:

  • A child health action plan, including:
    • Cutting waiting lists for children.
    • Providing mental health support for children in school.
    • Boosting preventative mental health services, including recruiting 8,500 trained staff at CAMHS and NHS talk therapies.
    • Establishing a national supervised toothbrushing programme for 3–5-year-olds.
    • Legislating for a ban on smoking and clamping down on underage vaping.
    • Banning junk food advertising to children.
    • Allowing health visitors to administer routine immunisations to vulnerable and at-risk children.
    • Banning the sale of high caffeine energy drinks for under 16s.
  • It will not reintroduce the pensions lifetime allowance.

Liberal Democrats

The Lib Dems launched their manifesto this week, which confirmed its pledges to get people seeing a GP within seven days, to improve social care, including creating a workforce plan and introducing free personal care, alongside a promise to spend £8.35bn on the NHS.

It also pledged to ‘remove’ top-down bureaucracy to let GP practices ‘hire the staff they need’, and to set up a ‘strategic small surgeries fund’ to sustain services in rural and remote areas.

Dr Jennifer Dixon, chief executive of the Health Foundation, said the manifesto was a ‘positive vision’ for tackling UK healthcare, with the Lib Dems the ‘only party to commit to meaningful action to improve the neglected social care system’.

She said: ‘On the NHS, we welcome the commitment to expanding capacity in general practice and community-based services, including mental health support for children and young people. However, setting fixed targets to speed up patient access to general practice should be approached with caution. Without other support, targets can have unintended unwanted effects.

‘While the commitment to a ten-year capital investment plan is welcome, overall, the funding promised by the Liberal Democrats for the NHS is not enough to provide the stable, long-term investment needed to keep pace with demand and improve services for the future.’

She added that the funding for the free personal care pledge was ‘not enough’ and that the scale of the challenge ‘shouldn’t be underestimated’ in terms of the social care workforce.

This week, the party also pledged to tackle ambulance delays and corridor care, be a ‘voice for carers’, work towards a more sustainable and fairer process for pharmacy funding and build on pharmacy first, and to fund mental health checks at vulnerable stages of life.

Responding to the Liberal Democrats’ pledge for long term sickness, Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation said: ‘The Liberal Democrats are right to identify that high levels of long term sickness can have a huge impact on the country.

‘While regular mental health checks or MOTs could help identify people in need of care, without increased treatment capacity it risks just extending the waiting lists. That is why we want a comprehensive plan to develop the services and workforce the mental health sector needs in order to provide the support for patients.

‘We are calling on the next government to introduce a 12-month stabilisation plan to get NHS performance back on track as well as to commit to ensuring that the NHS Long-Term Workforce Plan will be fully funded. We are also calling for more capital investment to tackle crumbling estates and allow leaders to invest in new innovations and technology.’

Some of the Liberal Democrats’ main healthcare pledges this week:

  • That their manifesto will ‘save the NHS’.
  • Recruit an extra 8,000 GPs.
  • ‘Remove top-down bureaucracy’ to let practices hire the staff they need.
  • Set up a ‘Strategic Small Surgeries Fund to ‘sustain services in rural and remote areas’.
  • Implement a ten-year plan to invest in the primary care estate.
  • That 100% of cancer patients will be able to start treatment within 62 days of urgent referral.
  • Expand virtual wards, ringfence technology budgets, and replace old computers.

Full Lib Dem manifesto here. 

A version of this story was first published on our sister title Pulse PCN.

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