Observations Election Watch

Promises, promises—and common ground: question time for health spokespeople

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h2165 (Published 22 April 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h2165
  1. Gareth Iacobucci, news reporter, The BMJ
  1. giacobucci{at}bmj.com

How did the party health spokespeople fare when they faced a grilling from health service professionals at the British Library in London on Tuesday? Gareth Iacobucci reports from an NHS focused UK general election hustings and asks members of the audience for their verdicts

Who was there?

The politicians on the platform were the Conservative health secretary for England, Jeremy Hunt; Labour’s shadow health secretary, Andy Burnham; the Liberal Democrat health minister Norman Lamb; and Julia Reid of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), standing in for the party’s health spokesperson.

The debate was chaired by the BBC’s Sarah Montague and was organised by the healthcare think tanks the Health Foundation, Nuffield Trust, and King’s Fund, the NHS Confederation, the BMA, and the patients’ and carers’ charity National Voices. The BMJ was the media partner.

During the 90 minute session the politicians faced questions from the floor on a range of key healthcare issues, including funding, competition, staffing, and pay. They were also pressed on the future of mental health and general practice and asked how they would pursue the new models of care proposed in NHS England’s Five Year Forward View.

Funding pledges

The parlous state of NHS finances infused much of the discussion. The participants clashed over their respective funding commitments, discussed in last week’s Election Watch (BMJ 2015;350:h2009). The NHS Confederation’s chief executive, Rob Webster, asked all the panellists whether they were confident that the amount of money they had pledged to spend on the NHS was enough to meet their expectations on quality of care.

Jeremy Hunt: “We took the £8bn [€11bn; $12bn] figure from the NHS’s own plan—the Five Year Forward View—which said there would be about £22bn of efficiency savings. The funding is coming on the back of having the strongest economy in the G7. You can have …

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