The Liberal Democrats have promised to financially incentivise healthcare professionals to work in areas with workforce shortages through a ‘patient premium’ scheme.
The party’s full manifesto, released today ahead of the 12 December election, said incentive payments would be given to clinicians in inner-city and remote rural areas where there is not enough staff.
Its plans for the NHS also include giving free prescriptions to patients with chronic mental health conditions.
The party has promised an extra £35bn for health and social care in England, Wales and Northern Ireland over the next five years funded by putting a penny on income tax.
The 94-page election proposal promises to take a ’what works’ approach to improving retention by including continuing professional development, better support, and more flexible working conditions for NHS staff.
‘Sticking plaster solution’
Professor Azeem Majeed, professor of primary care at Imperial College London criticised the patient premium pledge as a ‘sticking plaster solution’ which was unlikely to work.
He said: ‘Incentive schemes to encourage health professionals such as GPs to work in parts of the country that have the greatest problems recruiting have been tried previously but have not generally been very successful.
‘My own view is that initiatives like do not address the underlying causes of difficulties with recruitment and retention of NHS staff. These are more to do with issues like workload, funding and work-related stress, none of which will be improved through incentive schemes. These incentive schemes also do not address the fact there is a shortage of NHS staff across the country and will not increase the overall supply of staff.’
Maintaining freedom of movement
The Liberal Democrats also committed to ending the GP shortfall by maintaining freedom of movement from remaining in the EU and training more GPs. They also announced a £10bn capital fund to upgrade equipment, ambulances, hospitals and other NHS buildings.
Liberal Democrat leader, Jo Swinson, said: ‘This manifesto is a bold plan to build a brighter future for our country, and that starts with stopping Brexit. Labour and the Conservatives can’t offer the country a brighter future because they both want Brexit. We know that will be bad for our NHS.’
Other manifesto policies include:
- Making sure there are fit for purpose GP premises, equipped with modern technology;
- Improving appointments outside normal working hours, including using mobile services;
- Listening and acting on the pensions crisis;
- Encouraging CCGs and local authorities to work together on pooled budgets and joint arrangements;
- Reinstating funding for public health budgets;
- A national workforce strategy.
Ahead of the general election, Labour pledged to spend £2.5bn on an overhaul of the primary care estate, whereas the Conservative party have promised an extra 6,000 GPs by 2025.