In his speech on Monday, David Cameron reiterated his personal commitment to the NHS, fuelled by his often-expressed debt for the care it has provided to him and his family. Back in Downing Street, unencumbered by the compromises of coalition government, he now has the opportunity to repay that debt, and leave a lasting legacy.
As the most potent expression of what it means to live in 'one nation' – Cameron's motif for the new parliament – the NHS is facing unprecedented pressures. Most NHS providers are forecasting deficits this year, key targets for patient care are being missed, and staff are feeling the effects of rising demand and tightly constrained resources. Social care is in an even more parlous state, with public funding having been cut deeply and around a quarter fewer people receiving publicly funded social care today than at the beginning of the last parliament.
The Prime Minister’s critics will expect him to lead a further programme of cuts in public spending to eliminate the deficit in the public finances and fulfil commitments made during the election campaign. More detail on where these cuts will fall is expected in the Budget on 8 July.