Huge task ahead for new Labour Government

Labour is returning to power with a huge parliamentary majority, following a landslide general election victory. Central to the new government’s agenda is the future of the NHS. The Labour party’s campaign stated that it has “saved the NHS before” and it “will do so again”.

The Labour Party also acknowledged that investment alone won’t be enough to tackle the problems facing the NHS – fundamental reform will be required, with a greater focus on of prevention and on the management of chronic, long-term conditions.

The strategy will be to “move the NHS away from a model geared towards late diagnosis and treatment”, to a model where more services are delivered in local communities. The Government also promises to "harness the power of technologies such as AI to transform the speed and accuracy of diagnostic services".

Key Labour plans for the NHS include promises to:

  • Cut NHS waiting times with 40,000 more appointments every week
  • Double the number of cancer scanners
  • A new Dentistry Rescue Plan
  • 8,500 additional mental health staff
  • A return of the family doctor

Commenting on Labour’s plans, Dr. Rebecca Fisher, Senior Policy Fellow at the Health Foundation, said the party’s pledges will be welcomed by patients who continue to struggle to access general practice: “Promising patients appointments with a doctor of their choice is sensible, given that improved continuity of care is clearly linked with better health outcomes. However, this requires more GPs and high attrition rates mean that increasing the number of GP trainees has not yet proved an effective strategy to boost the overall GP workforce.

"It’s also vital that the next government recognises that pressures are greatest in poorer areas – where general practice is relatively under-funded and under-doctored - and where patients face the biggest barriers to accessing care.

“Our recent polling found that the public wants primary and community care to be a higher priority for NHS resources than hospital services. Promises made on funding so far fall short of the amount required to meaningfully improve the NHS, and with little detail on offer about future investment, there’s a risk of limited funding being swallowed up by attempts to improve hospital care.

"If the new government is serious about improving the public’s experience in general practice, it should commit to increasing the proportion of NHS funding spent on general practice.”

Nuffield Trust chief executive Thea Stein said: “The promise of 40,000 additional appointments to improve waiting times is ambitious but getting more weekend and evenings shifts out of exhausted staff will be hard. Investment in scanners is positive, but after years of neglect on capital spending, buildings and digital technology are also in a poor state. While using the private sector more is pragmatic, there is a question over how much spare capacity there actually is.”

Dr. Michael Devlin, Medical Defence Union (MDU) head of professional standards, said: "A new government always finds plenty of problems waiting for them on the desk. Sadly, it has become too familiar for us to see a healthcare workforce that is over stretched and under supported. This was reflected in research we carried out of our healthcare professional members which found that over 90% want politicians to include plans to support the health and wellbeing of the NHS workforce.  

“We urge the new government to roll up its sleeves and deliver for healthcare professionals. That includes prioritising support for their health and wellbeing, making sure the way they are regulated is fair, proportionate and timely and ensuring every pound possible is spent on patient care, rather than supporting an outdated legal regime for clinical negligence claims." 



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