Opinion: Conservative health policies are short on detail

What have the Conservatives said on health so far? Their manifesto makes big promises – but is vague on detail.

NHS England’s Five Year Forward View called for £8 billion more annually by 2020 (alongside £22 billion efficiency savings) to maintain NHS standards.

Liberal Democrats were the first to sign up to this – and we set out clearly how to fund it. The Conservatives matched this – but give no details on funding this other than the ‘recovering economy’.

Lamb also called for a (much-needed!) cross-party Review of NHS & Social Care funding.

David Cameron yesterday proposed 7-day hospital services and 7-day extended hours GP access, offering 5,000 extra GP’s.

GP access is a vital problem that matters for many of us. The Liberal Democrats called for more telemedicine. Co-locating GP’s in A&E – so you go to one place out-of-hours (both ideas backed by NHS England’s CEO). £2.5 billion more to keep people out of hospital.

True seven-day hospital services may generate some efficiency of scale savings – but you still need more people working who would not otherwise be there, be they extra pathologists or porters. Where does the funding come from?

The King’s Fund added: “A seven-day NHS is the right ambition but delivering it by 2020 will be a tall order…and it will cost money” The £8 billion mentioned earlier “will not pay for new initiatives such as seven-day working.”

At the same time, the Conservatives are planning tough anti-strike laws – while we promised inflation-linked pay rises.

The NHS Confederation set out five challenges for an incoming Government – including to:
a) prioritise “reducing preventable illness and maintaining wellbeing across all public services” 
b) deliver “supported self-management and personalised care” and 
c) create “a simplified outcomes framework which aligns [health and social care]”.

We gave considerable detail on how we would meet this, such as “[by combining] the public health, adult social care and health outcome frameworks to ensure [public bodies work] towards common goals”.

The Conservatives? Yet again, excruciatingly silent on how they would meet these challenges.

Lastly, on carers and mental health Conservative policies are again vague.

The King’s Fund noted “with social care services under huge pressure […] the [Conservative] manifesto is silent about the unprecedented challenges facing [them]”.

For mental health, they talk about “enforcing access standards” and increasing funding. That’s it. Compare that with our Mental Health Mini-Manifesto, precisely detailing how we would have built on our record.

With the Conservatives’ health policy, our NHS is taking a leap into the dark. We still do not know how they will deliver their promises.

* Dr Mohsin Khan is an NHS psychiatrist. He is Vice-Chair of both Oxford East Liberal Democrats and Liberal Democrat Mental Health Association. He is also South Central Regional Policy Chair. He has commented on healthcare for BBC Breakfast, ITV Good Morning Britain, Sky News, and London Live.