Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations Health Policy

What did the party conferences tell us about the NHS and social care?

BMJ 2018; 363 doi: (Published 09 October 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;363:k4221
  1. Andy Cowper, editor
  1. Health Policy Insight
  1. andycowper{at}

The signs were that for neither major party is health near the top of the agenda

The first thing we learnt, from the main UK party conferences in the past couple of weeks, was that despite Jonathan Ashworth’s generally strong performance as Labour shadow health secretary he may not be liked by the party’s fixers, as he was given a 9 am slot on the day of Jeremy Corbyn’s speech. Given the traditional nocturnal socialising at party conferences, and the oxygen of media coverage inevitably going to Corbyn, this was not a prime slot for the party’s health lead in the year of the NHS’s 70th birthday.

Ashworth’s speech was a competent critique of the government’s record.1 Last year his conference speech had set out a spending offer of £45bn extra funding for health and social care, and in June this year the Conservatives promised just over £20bn extra by 2023-24.2 Ashworth’s …

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