Commenting on the Conservative Party's publication of the health chapter from their draft manifesto today, acting chief executive at The King's Fund, Dr Anna Dixon, said:
'Although there is much in the draft manifesto that chimes with current government policy – more foundation trusts and more choice for patients, for example – the document signals a number of areas where Conservative and Labour policy diverge.
'An independent board, changes to the way that drugs are approved and paid for, and real budgets in the hands of GPs could significantly change the way in which the NHS operates. But more detail is needed before the impact of such policies can be properly understood.
'There are also some issues which remain unanswered such as whether a Conservative government would seek to maintain the current waiting times achieved by the NHS.
'Whichever party forms a government after the next election, they will inherit an NHS facing the toughest financial challenge in its history. Whether or not current spending is protected, demand will continue to rise and the NHS needs to figure out how to do more for less without compromising safety or quality.'
Commenting on announcements of new Conservative Party policy on public health funding and maternity networks, Dr Dixon added:
'A focus on health inequalities is undoubtedly welcome, but the gap in health between rich and poor is a long-standing problem that the NHS has been trying to tackle since its foundation. NHS money is already allocated to areas based on deprivation as well as clinical need. It's not clear whether today's announcement is a move away from existing PCT allocation formulas or creates additional public health funding.
'The option of a home birth or care in a home-like environment is important for mothers-to-be, but the provision of choice has to be balanced with concerns for safety and quality of services. There is a clear need to improve co-ordination and communication between all those involved in the care of mothers, babies and their families throughout the period of pregnancy, birth and early years. More information is needed on how the proposed maternity networks would achieve this and how new providers would be encouraged into the system.'
Notes to editors:
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- The King’s Fund is a charity that seeks to understand how the health system in England can be improved. Using that insight, we help to shape policy, transform services and bring about behaviour change. Our work includes research, analysis, leadership development and service improvement. We also offer a wide range of resources to help everyone working in health to share knowledge, learning and ideas.