Hospital Dr News

Political parties must propose credible policies on sustainable funding and integrated care

Sustainable funding and greater integration of care have been highlighted as key challenges for the political parties’ manifestos ahead of the General Election.

With the NHS the issue that matters most to the public after Brexit and the public increasingly concerned about its future, health and social care will be among the biggest topics of debate ahead of the 8 June vote.

King’s Fund Chief Executive Chris Ham has set out five tests political parties will need to meet to have a credible programme for health and social care.

In addition to funding and integration, he calls on politicians to translate the rhetoric about adopting a more preventative approach to health into a cross-government commitment to improving population health.

He also calls for greater support for the NHS and social care workforce.

He said: “Health and social care are ‘people businesses’ which depend critically on the training, recruitment and retention of a wide range of staff. Shortages of staff have led to increased reliance on locums, and the cost of doing so is one of the factors behind current financial pressures.

“Growing workloads have created more challenging work environments and have raised concerns about staff retention, including among junior doctors and among GPs approaching the end of their careers. Brexit creates a risk that the NHS will lose more EU nationals working in the NHS, thereby adding to the pressures that exist…will the manifestos face up to these issues and set out credible plans to address them.”

On funding, the King’s Fund analysis suggests that the Department of Health’s budget will increase by around £4.5 billion between 2015/16 and 2020/21 on current spending plans, a long way short of the £10 billion increase claimed by the government.

If these plans are left unchanged, Ham says, then the prospect is of patients waiting longer for treatment and care being increasingly rationed.

“The first test for the manifestos is whether they face up to the funding challenges in the NHS and make credible commitments to provide the resources needed to sustain current standards of care and fund any new promises. This must include sufficient funding for social care as well as resources to implement existing commitments on mental health and general practice,” he said.

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