As the momentum heading towards a general election begins to build, health leaders have warned politicians to make the NHS a priority in campaigning.
The announcement by Theresa May of a general election in June was generally considered to be a shock, although the strategic reasons for the decision appeared to be clear.
Despite the sudden nature of the election call, May’s conservative party are currently 1/14 with many bookmakers to secure a majority.
Thus, by calling the election, May is almost certainly guaranteeing the Conservative party a significant amount of political capital with which to negotiate Brexit.
Yet healthcare organisations are already stating that the coming change in government should be used as an opportunity for the NHS to be reinvigorated following the most challenging period in its history.
Dr Mark Porter, chair of the BMA council, argued that the NHS must not be marginalised in importance by the focus on Brexit.
“Health is always one of the most important issues for the people of this country and with the NHS at breaking point, having been put through one of the worst winters on record, it must be a central issue in the upcoming election. Staff have ensured that we still have one of the best health services in the world, but years of underinvestment while patient demand has been rising means that it is now failing too many people, too often. Our hospitals and GP surgeries are full and social care is on its knees, with staff working under impossible conditions.”
Porter suggested that crippling staff shortages were fundamentally undermining the delivery of patient care.
He also condemned the tendency of governments to use the NHS as a political football, and called on the winner of the forthcoming election to instead make a commitment to delivering world-class healthcare services.
“Our health and social care systems can no longer cope without urgent action,” he concluded. “We call on politicians of all parties not to duck this crisis any longer, and instead to outline credible and sustainable plans that will safeguard the future of the fully funded and supported NHS that staff want and patients deserve.”
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs , concurred with the view of Porter, indicating that the NHS should be a major focus of campaigning in the post-election climate.
“Once the new government is formed, we will continue to press for the urgent delivery of all the pledges made in NHS England’s GP Forward View – and for equivalent investment in GP services in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The GP Forward View has support from across the political spectrum and promises an extra £2.4bn extra a year for general practice in England, plus 5,000 more GPs and 5,000 more members of the practice team by 2020.”
Britons will go to the polls on 8th June.