Big promises - An overview of the manifesto commitments on the NHS and social care

Posted On: 
5th June 2017

Dods Political Consultant, Jasper Thompson, gives an overview of the parties manifesto commitments on health and social care.

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As expected, the 2017 manifestos contained a range of bold commitments. Social care was without doubt the key focus but each of the parties also delivered some ambitious promises on mental health reform, funding and patient safety.

The Conservatives caused a media storm with their proposal to reform social care funding, the opposition were quick to label the policy a “dementia tax” – with the Tories buying Google adverts to clarify the tax, it seems safe to assume the label will stick. The policy proposes to raise the maximum asset value which entitles an individual to receive council-funded care from £23,250 to £100,000. Crucially however, the value of an individual’s house will now be included in a valuation of one’s assets for those receiving home care. The party also proposed to scrap winter fuel payments for well-off pensioners, with Work and Pensions Minister Damian Green highlighting the likes of Mick Jagger as unfair recipients of the benefit.

Social care has been a continued challenge for the Government and with this in mind, it is unsurprising that a drastic change to funding was proposed. The decision to disregard recommendations made in the Dilnot report and not make explicitly clear whether there would be a cap to the cost of care led to further outcries. In a move that could be considered unprecedented in an election campaign, the Prime Minister was forced to clarify that there would be a cap on the cost of social care, but refused to give a figure, stressing this would be considered in the Green Paper promised in the manifesto. Labour proposed an additional £8bn for social care, including an additional £1bn in the first year.

Labour’s headline grabbing policy was the promise of over £30bn in extra NHS funding over the next Parliament and the proposed increase in income tax for the top 5 per cent of earners to pay for the funding. This contrasts with the Conservative’s commitment of an extra £8bn in real terms over the next parliament. Despite varying greatly in policy detail, both commitments are unified by their unviability, as claimed by the Institute for Fiscal Studies. Both manifesto’s have also incurred a grilling from the Nuffield Trust with the think tank claiming neither have promised enough.

Most of the main parties delivered commitments to mental health care reform, promising concerted efforts to ensure mental health conditions are considered on parity to physical conditions. The Liberal Democrats proposed a National Wellbeing Strategy and championed greater efforts to improve the mental health of children. Surprisingly, whereas the other main parties championed mental health reform, the 48 page SNP manifesto remained largely quiet on the subject of mental health.  

Labour committed to scrapping the NHS pay cap, another area of growing pressure for the Government, a position also taken by the Liberal Democrats.

Also worth noting are the conflicting positions taken by Labour and Conservatives on sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) and the Health and Social Care Act 2012 with the latter committed to both as cornerstones of their health agenda and the former staunchly opposing both. Rumbling along in the background is the issue of contaminated blood. Labour, championed by Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, are proposing a public inquiry and the Lib Dems committing to a settlement. With pressure likely to continue, this is certainly one to watch.

No manifesto would be complete without bold claims about waiting times, and 2017 is no exception. The Conservatives have committed to retaining the 95 per cent four hour A&E target and the 18-week elective care standard. Labour have promised to take one million people off NHS waiting lists by the end of the next Parliament, guarantee access to treatment within 18 weeks and ensure A&E admissions will be seen within 4 hours.

The Conservatives t have been scrutinised over their management of the NHS at every point over their seven-year government tenure, so it always seemed likely that big promises were going to be made by each of the main parties, and they certainly did not disappoint. Regardless of the election result, each party’s manifesto makes it clear that we can expect to see some significant changes in the health and social care sector over the next five years.

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