Conservatives' health policy

The Conservative party manifesto was launched on 13 April 2010. Its key election pledges include:

Investment

The Conservatives will increase health spending in real terms 'every year' and cut administration costs by a third by removing 'expensive layers of bureaucracy'. This will release resources for frontline services.

Choice

Every patient will be able to choose to go to any health care provider that 'meets NHS standards,  within NHS prices' and the mechanism by which hospitals are paid will recognise good performance. Patients will have control of their health records and will be 'in charge of making decisions about their care'. Hospitals will not be paid in full if a patient is left with an avoidable infection.

Targets

The Conservatives will scrap 'politically motivated targets that have no clinical justification'.

Information

Detailed data on the performance of health care providers will be published online. Success will be measured in terms of health results, for example survival rates for stroke or cancer. Patients will be able to rate the quality of care they receive from hospitals and doctors.

GP services

GPs will hold patients' budgets and commission local services on their behalf. Their pay will be linked to the quality of their results. Every patient will have access to a GP between 8am and 8pm seven days a week. Urgent 24-hour care, including GP out-of-hours services, will be available in every area of England.

New structures

  • A statutory body called 'Healthwatch' will represent the public and patients, and will have the power to investigate complaints on their behalf
  • An independent NHS board will 'allocate resources and provide commissioning guidelines'
  • Commissioning decisions will be made according to 'evidence-based quality standards'
  • A new telephone number for urgent care will run alongside the emergency number 999
  • The Department of Health will become the Department of Public Health, with separate public health funding allocated to local communities and a 'health premium' introduced to 'weight' public health funding towards the poorest areas with the worst health outcomes.

Patient care

The 'forced closure of A&E and maternity wards' will be stopped and local 'maternity networks' established. The number of single rooms in hospitals will be increased 'as resources allow' to end the use of mixed sex accommodation. £10 million a year will go to children’s hospices after 2011 and a new ‘per-patient’ funding mechanism will be introduced for all hospices and providers of palliative care.

Cancer

A 'Cancer Drug Fund' will enable patients to access cancer drugs that 'their doctors think will help them', and the way in which drugs for the treatment of rare cancers are commissioned is to change so that more people will have access to them. Screening programmes for common cancers will be rolled out and clinical trials of innovative treatments will be encouraged.

Dentistry

A new dentistry contract will tie newly qualified dentists into the NHS for five years and dentists will be allowed to fine people who consistently miss appointments. One million more people will have access to an NHS dentist and every five year old will receive a dental check-up.

Social care

There will be direct payments to carers to improve access to respite care and to 'help with care needs'.

People who wish to avoid selling their homes to fund residential care will be able to pay a voluntary one-off insurance premium of around £8,000. They will be able to choose to top up this premium to cover the cost of receiving care in their own home.

Mental health

Welfare-to-work providers and employers will be able to purchase services from mental health trusts and access to ‘talking’ therapies will be increased.