UK General Election: What will be next for health and social care?

UK General Election: What will be next for health and social care?

  • 09 June 2017
  • Posted in: Health & Social Care

The UK general election 2017 resulted in a hung parliament with Prime Minister Theresa May seeking support to govern a minority administration. The Conservative party ended up with fewer seats than when the election was called six weeks ago and, in the short term at least, a period of increased political uncertainty lies ahead. As the new government forms and whatever shape that will take, it is widely expected that there will be some paralysis in Westminster in regards to any changes to legislation, spending or new policies for health and social care.
 
Further ahead the party manifestos gave us some clues to the forward direction of the new government but expect the controversial Conservative manifestos plans for social care, and the resulting backlash to ‘dementia tax’, to have a rethink. All major parties remain committed to an NHS that is free at the point of use and that care is tax-funded. Importantly all also recognised the need for more money for the health service in the coming years. The gains for the Labour party have been linked to the tide turning against austerity, the party’s policy aims for more funding for our public services and the NHS in particular have been credited to an upsurge of votes. Whatever shape the new government takes it will be sure that the public views will be recognised and likely to inform policies during the next parliament.
 
Future funding and initiatives to improve quality of care remain at the forefront of priorities for the health and social care sector. Under a Conservative minority government we can reasonably expect little deviation from the 2015 spending plans and Five Year Forward View Strategy to remain in place until 2020. The Health Foundation’s Anita Charlesworth, Director of Research and Economics, produced excellent fiscal analysis (http://www.health.org.uk/blog/general-election-2017-what-manifestos-might-mean-health-care-funding) of the political parties’ plans for healthcare funding. The analysis shows that in 2020/21 and 2022/23, the three main political parties plan to spend more in real terms than the existing funding plans for the NHS but funding plans still fall significantly short of the anticipated spending pressures.
 
Charlesworth argues that there are three ways to respond to a growing health care budget: cut other public services, reduce what the NHS does or increase the size of the state, with the associated increase in tax. Both the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties’ manifestos include tax increases in some form and the Conservatives have promised to scrap their 2015 commitment not to increase income tax or national insurance. A recent poll ran by Ipsos MORI found that 64% of people in Britain would support increasing taxes to fund the NHS. So with huge public and political support for the NHS model, backed by robust evidence, could we see a tax increase to support our health and social care?
 
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