UK election: what the main parties say about health care

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c2058 (Published 14 April 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c2058
  1. Nigel Hawkes, freelance journalist
  1. nigel.hawkes1{at}btinternet.com

    After months of speculation about the election date and the contents of their manifestos, the political parties have now published their proposed policies, Nigel Hawkes reports

    Oh to be a cancer patient, now that April’s here! In their health manifestos, Labour and the Conservatives appear desperate for the votes of those unfortunate enough to be diagnosed with cancer—Labour offers “a binding guarantee” of test results within a week, along with the right to one to one nursing and to palliative care at home, and the Conservatives promise access to the latest drugs, saying they will encourage trials of new treatments and support screening programmes.

    The Liberal Democrats, by contrast, do not even mention the word cancer in their manifesto. Unlike the other parties, they focus on structural reform, promising the abolition of strategic health authorities (SHAs) and the creation of elected health boards to control local services.

    If the three major parties do agree about anything, it is that there are plenty of costs to be cut. The Labour Party promises to save hundreds of millions scaling down the IT system it invented, and delivering £20 billion of savings “in the frontline NHS.” The Conservatives promise to cut administration costs by a third and to cap pay so that no worker earns more than 20 times the lowest paid. The Lib Dems, as well as abolishing SHAs, would halve the size of the Department of Health, cut spending by health quangos by a third, and cap chief executive pay so that nobody earns more than the prime minister.

    While promises have been ten a penny in the run-up to the election, the manifestos find the two main parties in more cautious …

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