Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations Body Politic

Are the Conservatives serious?

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: (Published 17 November 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b4847
  1. Nigel Hawkes, freelance journalist
  1. nigel.hawkes1{at}

    David Cameron’s party is incoherent on its plans for the NHS

    How seriously should we be taking the Conservatives’ plans for the NHS? At one level, obviously, very seriously indeed: they could well be the policy of the next government, within six months or so.

    But are their plans serious in the sense of being a well considered, carefully argued, and defensible set of policies that will make for a better NHS? That isn’t a given, as we saw when Labour was elected in 1997 with little more in its manifesto than a promise to cut waiting lists (a bit) and to abolish the Tories’ internal market. By coming in with such a weak hand, Labour wasted at least two years.

    Given the financial constraints, there isn’t time for the Conservatives to ride a similar learning curve. So policy analysts have been poring over David Cameron’s speech to the Royal College of Pathologists on 2 November, the most comprehensive account yet of Conservative plans. Does it gel? Or is it simply a list of aspirations, contradictory promises, and wishful thinking?

    As a political platform, it lacks oomph. There isn’t a single central idea in it that …

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