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Feature Round Table

What the politicians aren’t saying about health

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 28 April 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h2248
  1. Rebecca Coombes, head of features and investigations, The BMJ, London, UK
  1. rcoombes{at}

After the hustings debate on health last week, The BMJ gathered health experts to find out their reaction. Rebecca Coombes reports

What happened when the major political parties appeared at a health hustings debate last week? Did any party win the debate, or did it generate more heat than light?

The London event (watch online at ) saw health secretary Jeremy Hunt clash with his Labour opposite after Andy Burnham made a surprise commitment to above inflation pay deals for NHS staff. But a remarkable degree of consensus also broke out: on the need to integrate health and social care, equality of care for mental health patients, and to make general practice jobs more attractive. And, although the parties differ about amounts and timings, all parties acknowledged the NHS needs more money.

The BMJ, the debate’s media partner, gathered a group of health cognoscenti around a table after the debate to give their immediate reaction. Which party was the most credible on the affordability of its manifesto pledges, and which had the clearest vision to keeping the NHS sustainable?

The panellists included big names from the health think tanks: Nigel Edwards, the Nuffield Trust’s chief executive; Chris Ham, the King’s Fund’s chief executive; and Anita Charlesworth, the Health Foundation’s chief economist; as well as doctors’ leaders Mark Porter, chair of BMA Council, and Jane Dacre, president of the Royal College of Physicians. Jeremy Taylor, chief executive of the patient advocacy charity National Voices and Johnny Marshall, a GP and director of policy at the NHS Confederation, also joined the postmortem. You can listen to their thoughts online at

Money talk

Taylor liked the “beef” in the debate, and in particular singled out the level of passion and detail about mental health from all the political parties—“something you wouldn’t …

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