Intended for healthcare professionals

News Election Watch

Labour promises increased NHS funding and free dental care

BMJ 2019; 367 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l6585 (Published 19 November 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;367:l6585
  1. Abi Rimmer
  1. The BMJ

We’re another week into the election campaign, and politicians from the two major parties are still battling it out to prove who loves the NHS more.

The shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, and shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, have announced that the Labour Party would increase NHS spending by £26bn (€30.4bn; $33.4bn) in real terms between now and 2023-24 if elected next month, outspending the Conservatives’ existing commitment by more than £6bn.1

Labour’s settlement would increase the budget for England’s Department of Health and Social Care by an average of 4.3% a year (to £178bn by 2023-24), funded through increased rates of income tax for the highest earners.

The party also announced additional funding for its £450m plan to provide free NHS dental check-ups for everyone in England.2 It said that the pledge was part of Labour’s plans to focus on prevention and provide a truly universal NHS and was a move towards providing dental services free at the point of use

In addition to these funding announcements, Labour published research it conducted into NHS staff overtime. Research from the NHS staff survey showed that nearly 270 000 NHS staff said they worked extra hours for free every week, at an average of 2.3 hours a week.

Doctors and dentists between them worked an extra 125 000 hours a week (an average of 3.6 hours), Labour said, while nurses worked 380 000 hours overtime a week (average 3.0 hours).

Elsewhere, the Liberal Democrats announced that they would raise £7bn a year in additional revenue for the NHS and social care services, by adding a penny onto income tax. They also announced a £10bn capital fund to upgrade equipment, ambulances, and hospitals and other NHS buildings.

These funding announcements are likely to be welcomed by health leaders, given that a survey of 131 chief executives, chairs, and directors conducted by the NHS Confederation found that 85% of them thought capital investment for the NHS should be a key issue for any incoming government.3

Whether doctors approve of Labour’s plans may be difficult to gauge, after it was reported that employers have told NHS staff not to get involved in any political debates on social media during the campaign.4

One doctor who clearly didn’t get the memo was medical registrar Zack Ferguson, who shared a series of posts on Twitter in which he imagined what our favourite politicians would be if they were doctors.5

Jeremy Corbyn would be an anaesthetist, he says, who “refuses to eat the drug rep lunch on principle,” while Matt Hancock would be a nephrologist who “convinced [his] trust to spend £10m on iPads that no one uses.”

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