The NHS in England and the 2015 general election

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g6129 (Published 10 October 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g6129
  1. Chris Ham, chief executive
  1. 1King’s Fund, London W1G 0AN, UK
  1. c.ham{at}kingsfund.org.uk

Will today’s politicians rise to the challenge or consign necessary reforms to the “too difficult” box?

This autumn’s party conferences offered some clues on how politicians are thinking about the NHS in preparation for next May’s general election.

The Conservatives, Labour, and Liberal Democrats all made commitments to increase funding for the NHS in a context in which NHS organisations are facing the prospect of growing deficits and difficulties in delivering key targets on patient care. Improving access to general practitioners and promoting closer integration of care were other areas on which the parties agreed. Not surprisingly, they differed on the role of competition—most obviously in the Conservatives’ continuing commitment to develop the market in healthcare whereas Labour is seeking to save money by reducing competition and making the NHS the preferred provider of services. The Liberal Democrats made their mark with a pledge to give priority to mental health.

The commitments made on funding varied in their specificity and generosity. The Conservatives promised to ensure a real terms increase in NHS funding, leaving open the question of whether this would be just above the level required to cover the …

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