What Does The Upcoming Election Mean For The U.K.’s N.H.S.?

As debates between party leaders become more frequent, questions of what is important for the U.K. to consider in the upcoming election are asked. For the past three years, Brexit has dominated political discourse, being arguably the most topical and pressing issue for the U.K.. However, the N.H.S. has maintained as a controversial and sensitive issue facing U.K. citizens within the past decade. N.H.S. spending promises have been outlined this week by both Labour and the Conservatives, with the former guaranteeing £5.5bn more than the Conservative’s pledge of £20.5bn over the next parliamentary term, asserting the importance that the N.H.S. will play within this campaign.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, stated that the N.H.S. was in many ways “performing better than it ever was”, a surprising statement given that more than 720 patients waited over 12 hours for a bed in October. Jonathan Ashworth, Shadow Health Secretary responded, stating that “Matt Hancock is clueless about the levels of pain and misery he and his Tory cuts have caused patients”. Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, echoed these sentiments, “years of underfunding and an endless staffing crisis show the Conservative party are simply not fit to run our N.H.S.”.

The ITV debate between the two front-runners, Corbyn and Johnson, opened up the question of the instability of the N.H.S., with Corbyn suggesting that the current Prime Minister is preparing to sell off our N.H.S. to U.S. corporations, as part of a wider trade deal, triggered by Brexit. The key aspect of this trade deal is the vision to “provide full market access for U.S. products”, and whilst the Prime Minister asserted that the N.H.S. “is not on the table”, according to Huffpost, a dispatches investigation last month exposed the Conservative government for already discussing drug pricing in trade meetings between the U.S. and the U.K..

The Conservative party have outlined that their new plan for the N.H.S., if elected on 12 December, would be to recruit 6,000 GPs, as well as building 40 new hospitals. However, given that the Leave campaign’s, spearheaded by PM Boris Johnson, promises to redirect the £350 million a week currently sent to the E.U. to the N.H.S. was revealed to be grossly inaccurate, and therefore a lie, it leads the U.K. population to question Johnson’s integrity when it comes to our most crucial public service. Furthermore, Johnson does not appear to have learnt from these mistakes. The Conservatives have recently been criticised for claiming their party is building 40 new hospitals, as above, yet the government admitted in September that they were in fact investing £2.7bn to rebuild six existing hospitals by 2025, with a further 21 receiving a share of £100m in ‘seed funding’ to develop business cases for investment. This brings into question if this is a party, and a leader, that we trust to preserve and protect our N.H.S.?

The Independent has reported that the N.H.S. is now ahead of Brexit as the main concern in the upcoming election. This means voters are more likely to think of the N.H.S. when they go to the polls, with 60% of voters citing the N.H.S. as a concern in a poll conducted on the 15 – 18 November. Whilst it may seem difficult to sort through the false promises and the lies, the U.K. can only learn from past mistakes. Small changes in taxation policies for have enabled Labour to offer a full costed and hopeful plan for our N.H.S., with a £2bn promised for mental health infrastructure, and £1bn to restore the training bursary for nurses. Ultimately, not just protecting the institution of the N.H.S., but helping it thrive.