What could the landslide Conservative victory mean for the healthcare sector?
Having secured a resounding victory in the 2019 General Election, taking previously Labour safe seats and turning them into gains, AT Today looks back over the Conservative pledges and what effect they could have on the healthcare sector.
After weeks of campaigning, Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party has won one of the largest majorities of any government since 2001 and its biggest general election victory since Margaret Thatcher in 1987.
With 648 of the UK’s 650 constituencies having declared their results, the Tories have obtained a decisive 364 seats to enable a substantial House of Commons majority, providing Boris Johnson with more power and freedom to pursue his political agenda.
But what impact could this new Conservative Government have on the healthcare, assistive technology and independent living sectors?
Perhaps the most prevalent message to come out of the campaign, the PM’s first priority seems likely to follow through on the ‘Get Brexit Done’ mantra and begin moving the Brexit process forward.
During his victory speech in Westminster before sunrise this morning, Mr Johnson exclaimed: “We broke the deadlock, we ended the gridlock, we smashed the roadblock.”
He continued: “With this election, I think we’ve put an end to all those miserable threats of a second referendum.”
Mr Johnson continued: “We politicians have squandered the last three years, three and a half years in squabbles – we’ve even been arguing about arguing, and arguing about the tone of our arguments.
“I will put an end to all that nonsense and we will get Brexit done on time by the January 31 – no ifs, no buts, no maybes.”
With such a substantial majority, however, it remains to be seen just what kind of Brexit the Prime Minister will deliver, be it hard or soft.
Some key commitments made to companies following the delivery of Brexit included:
- To strike what it describes as “the right regulatory balance between supporting excellent business practice and protecting workers, consumers and the environment”
- To ensure that regulation is sensible and proportionate and that we always consider the needs of small businesses when devising new rules
Boris Johnson also said that getting Brexit done and will help restore confidence and certainty to businesses and families, as well as focus on the “priorities of the British people, funding the NHS and tackling the cost of living.”
Arguably the area that received the most attention, second to Brexit, during the course of the election campaign was the NHS.
The Conservatives made a number of pledges in regards to the NHS, which have come after flurries of headlines talking about the pressures the NHS faces, such as dangerously high bed occupancy levels in hospitals.
Perhaps the most important information relating to the industry in regards to Conservative pledges for the NHS relates to additional funding, particularly for hospitals, which could see substantial capital expenditure invested in new equipment.
According to the Conservative Manifesto, a returning Tory government would increase the NHS budget to £33.9 billion by 2023-24.
A controversial claim made by the Conservatives during campaigning was the building of 40 new hospitals and upgrading of 20 hospitals.
In particular, the Government pledged to provide £850 million for 20 hospital upgrades, £2.7 billion for the first six new hospitals, and seed funding so that work on 34 more can make progress – with many media outlets highlighting that seed funding is not the same as “new hospitals.”
Also outlined in the Conservative Manifesto is the importance of the NHS workforce and the need to support it with training, numbers and resources.
A key pledge by the Prime Minister is to deliver 50,000 more nurses. However, Boris came under fire for this statistic by several media outlets for making a misleading claim, as the 50,000 is allegedly made up of 31,000 new nurses and around 18,500 existing nurses who will be encouraged to remain within the NHS, or attracted back after leaving.
Boris has also promised to provide 6,000 more doctors in general practice and 6,000 more primary care professionals, such as physiotherapists and pharmacists under a Tory government.
Furthermore, the PM has promised that with the Conservatives’ additional funding, it will deliver 50 million extra general practice appointments a year to help reduce waiting times and give people a better service.
Policies on disability
One of the more controversial policies, the Conservatives have pledged to continue the roll-out of Universal Credit, which combines multiple benefits into one, as well as committing to ending the benefits freeze.
With the disability assessment process being criticised in recent times for being too harsh and unfair, the new Tory Government has vowed to reduce the number of reassessments a disabled person must go through when a significant change in condition is unlikely.
The Government also guaranteed to publish a National Strategy for Disabled People before the end of 2020, looking at ways to improve the benefits system, opportunities and access for disabled people in terms of housing, education, transport and jobs.
Promising to uphold existing commitments to increase SEND funding and support pupils, students and adults to get careers advice, internships, and transition into work, the promises could mean additional tendering for assistive technology to help reduce the disability gap.
The current social care system has often been labelled as a “crisis” in recent times, with charities repeatedly calling on the Government to urgently take action and to recognise the severity of the situation.
In July, shocking figures revealed by Alzheimer’s Society showed that people with dementia have had to spend nearly £15 billion of their own money on social care since the last General Election in 2017.
In this year’s General Election, all major parties were criticised for not addressing the complex needs of the strained social care system enough during the election, however, the Conservatives did lay out some key measures to help improve the system.
Highlighting the ageing population, growth in the number of working-age people with disabilities, as well as rising incidences of dementia and other chronic conditions, the Tory manifesto says “we must build the same level of consensus on social care as we have already built on the NHS.”
To that end, the Conservatives pledged to build a cross-party consensus, alongside stating that “one condition we do make is that nobody needing care should be forced to sell their home to pay for it.”
Key social care pledges from the Conservative Government included:
- Additional funding of £1 billion in every year of the new Parliament
- An extension of the entitlement to leave for unpaid carers, the majority of whom are women, to one week
- Making finding a cure to dementia one of the Government’s ‘grand challenges’ – putting it at the same level of priority as climate change
- A doubling of research funding into dementia and speeding up trials for new treatments
- £74 million over three years for additional capacity in community care settings for those with learning disabilities and autism
With the ‘hidden housing crisis’ receiving significant attention during the lead up to the election, including the creation of Housing Made for Everyone (HoME) coalition, the lack of appropriate housing for disabled and elderly individuals was only lightly addressed by the Conservatives.
In the manifesto, its “Homes for the Future” pledge committed to encouraging “innovative design and technology to make housing more affordable, accessible, and suitable for disabled people and an ageing population.”
With nothing concrete in the way of commitment to the number of new accessible and affordable housing to be built, or a change to mandatory building regulations as called for by the coalition, it is likely that third sector organisations will continue to sustain the pressure going into the new parliament.