There are two contenders left in the race to become the UK’s next Prime Minister, each have their own political record, ambitions and views on future policy strategies. Reacting to the pressures and challenges being faced by the NHS, and wider health sector in the UK, will be of crucial importance on the next PM’s task list. Nearly 7 million patients are now awaiting procedures in the UK, many people are living with undiagnosed conditions after the pandemic’s disruption to screening and GP access. Support for the diagnostics sector, such as investment in manufacturing and workforce, will be key to alleviating these pressures, achieving goals on early diagnosis for cancers, and combatting the serious threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).
“Despite record high temperatures outside, today’s NHS figures are more like those of a health service stuck in the depths of a particularly dire winter”, commented The King’s Fund Chief Executive, Richard Murray.
The BIVDA team have set out the current policy positions and future pledges of Mr Sunak and Ms Truss on the health system below:
Mr Sunak is expected to take a fiscally conservative approach to health and social care, despite having introduced the Health and Care Levy in April 2021. In his recent campaigning, he has promised a “transformative shake-up of the health system”, with targeted efforts to reduce the backlog and ambulance waiting times.
Concerns have been levied against Mr Sunak that he has ignored issues surrounding the healthcare workforce. He has previously blocked measures regarding workforce planning, and the British Medical Association has called for him to deploy a more realistic strategy towards workforce shortages, pay decreases and other issues.
Mr Sunak recently pledged to introduce a £10 charge for missed GP and hospital appointments, as well as a new ‘Backlog Taskforce’ which would aim to eliminate one-year waits by September 2024. Alongside these election promises, Mr Sunak would expand the Community Diagnostic Centre (CDCs) network by 200 locations (the current amount stands at 160). Potential Cabinet ministers in a Sunak Government could include: Jeremy Hunt MP (former Health and Care Secretary), Michael Gove MP (former Secretary of State for Levelling up and Housing), and Sajid Javid MP (also a former Health and Care Secretary).
Ms Truss has been criticised over a lack of detailed health policy planning and, as with Mr Sunak, insufficient, central workforce planning for healthcare. Ms Truss has not disclosed a great deal of her plans for improving or transforming the health system, although she has said that she would throw out the Health and Care Levy under her leadership.
Among the pledges that Ms Truss has made regarding health is a plan to strip away layers of management within the NHS, decrease central NHS planning and expand local decision-making and GP services. Ms Truss would carry on with the Conservative manifesto plans to build 40 new hospitals, boosting hospital infrastructure, and would further the levelling up agenda while seeking to slash public spending and EU red-tape.
Potential Cabinet ministers in a Truss-led Government could include: Rishi Sunak MP, and Kemi Badenoch MP.