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How the General Election Might Affect the UK Care Sector?

On Thursday 4 July, the country will go to the polling stations to vote in the 2024 General Election. This will not only decide which political party will run our Government, it could also mean change for the UK’s healthcare and social care provision, as the victorious party sets about realising its plans for this important sector.

All the major political parties have made pledges within their manifestos to improve social care and healthcare provision in the UK. Here (in alphabetical order) is a round-up of some of the main points covered by the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats. Fuller details of the manifestos are available here: https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/insight-and-analysis/long-reads/health-care-manifesto-pledges-election-2024.

Other political party manifestos are available online. Please note, Care Vision does not endorse any political viewpoint.

Conservatives

The Conservative manifesto makes the pledge to implement planned reforms to cap the costs of social care that an individual is liable to pay during their lifetime. Focus is also on reducing NHS waiting lists for A&E and cancer treatments, among other areas. More doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals will be recruited in line with the NHS Long-term Workforce Plan. Conservative pledges also include building more community diagnostic centres and GP surgeries, as well as expanding mental health support services and NHS talking therapies.

Other areas cover developing the existing Pharmacy First service that allows people to self-refer for minor illnesses or repeat prescriptions. The expansion will provide additional support for menopause, contraception and chest infections and help free up millions of GP appointments every year. Over time, the Conservatives pledge to invest in other types of out-of-hospital services too, while a Dental Recovery Plan aims to provide 2.5 million more NHS dentistry appointments for people needing treatment.

The manifesto includes promises to invest further in technology that will help transform NHS and other health-related services for staff, as well as service users, patients and residents. This includes funding for digital care management systems, technology to read MRI and CT scans more accurately and more investment in the NHS App.

Labour

A key pledge in the Labour manifesto describes taking forward plans for a National Care Service. This will provide universal access to social and personal care that will be free at the point of use. The plan will focus on setting out new standards for adult social care to ensure consistency across the country and greater emphasis on providing care in the home and wider community. Labour is also promising significant financial investment to free up more medical appointments, fund higher numbers of operations and scans and reduce NHS waiting lists.

Support will be provided to train GPs to create more face-to-face appointments. Pharmacists will be given greater independent prescribing powers where appropriate to help free up appointments. Funding for NHS dentistry will shift further towards providing preventative care to patients and retaining NHS dentists. Funding is also set aside to train thousands more mental health professionals.

Labour will work closely with NHS staff to move away from strike action and reset working relationships. Through various measures designed to eradicate inequality in healthcare, the party will focus on ways to halve the gap in healthy life expectancy between the UK’s richest and poorest areas. The Mental Health Act will be modernised and funding for technology increased, especially for widening the scope of the current NHS App.

Liberal Democrats

A key policy in the Liberal Democrats’ manifesto is the pledge to provide free personal care so the state can cover certain aspects of people’s care costs. A National Care Agency is also proposed with the remit of setting national minimum care standards. £3.7 billion extra will be spent on social care every year. The party will also fund 1,000 new hospital beds and invest further in A&E departments, along with funds to staff these additions.

The Liberal Democrat manifesto sets out plans to give people the legal right to see a GP within seven days, or 24 hours in the case of an emergency. This will be made simpler with a universal 24/7 GP booking system. Nurse practitioners and pharmacists will gain enhanced prescribing powers. Similarly, access to an NHS dentist will also be guaranteed for anyone needing urgent or emergency dental care. Young people’s mental health services will be extended to the age of 25.

Carers will receive a higher minimum wage according to the Liberal Democrat manifesto, boosting minimum wage by £2 per hour to improve pay across the care sector. Care workers will be exempt from the Immigration Skills Charge. NHS budgets will be ringfenced to allow investment in innovative technology such as electronic patient records and digital management systems.

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