EXCL Top health charities warn parties that 'simplistic' NHS election vows won't cure UK's ills

Posted On: 
19th November 2019

The election debate on the future of the NHS is "too simplistic" and will do nothing to improve the UK's worsening health record, leading charities have warned.

The intervention comes as party leaders race to outdo each other on pledges for NHS funding

A group of 61 organisations have written an open letter to the political parties urging them to come up with more policies to improve the nation's wellbeing.

Both the Tories and Labour are engaged in a multi-billion pound arms race over the NHS as the countdown to 12 December continues.

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But charities including MacMillan Cancer Support, the British Heart Foundation and Age UK say that will not be enough to improve the health of British people, especially those living in deprived communities.

The open letter, co-ordinated by an alliance of organisations called National Voices and passed to PoliticsHome, said: “The NHS is essential, but good health depends on much more. 

“There is a decline in the nation’s health that governments and political parties are not addressing. The debate during the election is at risk of being too simplistic and missing the point.

“Life expectancy gains have stalled, people perceive their health to be worsening and they’re living more years in ‘not good’ health. These declines are not an inevitability after years of gains – we’re doing badly compared to other countries.”

Labour has pledged to invest £26bn in the NHS in real terms over the next five years, while the Tories have come up with £20bn. The Lib Dems on Tuesday vowed to match Labour's increase by putting a penny extra on income tax.

But the charity group's letter said: “Our members rightly want to see many of the overwhelmed and under-resourced elements of the health and care system being addressed...However, it’s also essential that investment reaches communities.

“There are stark health inequality gaps across the country and people living in the most deprived areas have seen the biggest decline in improvements.” 

They added: “‘Health’ is about physical and mental health and wellbeing – across the life-course, including at the end of life. As important as hospitals are, they are rarely where good health is created. 

“Health is made good or bad within the neighbourhoods and communities we live.”

The charities are also demanding for a cross-party commitment to make health and wellbeing an overarching goal across all ministerial departments. 

National Voices chief executive Charlotte Augst told PoliticsHome: “As charities and social enterprises working in communities, we understand that people’s health depends on much more than the medical care they receive. 

“Good medical care is important, of course, and many of us work hard to improve it, but we want to see more discussion about what people need to live well. 

“Recent years have seen a decline in investment into all the things that make for good lives – things like advice about money and housing, good neighbourhoods, work and friendship. We need a rethink if we want to improve people’s health and wellbeing.” 

The Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats have been contacted for comment.