Commenting on the publication of the party political manifestos, which include new commitments, arbitrary targets on increases for some staff groups and scant mention of social care funding, Rob Webster, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said:
“The NHS is facing some of the biggest service and financial challenges in its history. If we are to tackle them, local leaders will need to be given the backing to work with their local communities to transform care.
“Manifesto commitments will need to be backed by concrete action from the next government – rhetoric can never be a substitute for reality when it comes to patient care.
“I am pleased with the impact the 2015 Challenge Prescription for the Election, which the NHS Confederation and 22 other leading health and care organisations produced, has had. Many of the parties’ proposals back reductions in preventable illness. There has been an increased focus on achieving parity of esteem between mental and physical health from the parties.
“There are welcome improvements and commitments signalled by the parties. There are also still a number of issues which are not addressed and which must be priorities for whoever forms the next government.”
“How much money we put into the NHS is a political choice. That choice has consequences in terms of service offer and efficiency. Where parties have committed to extra funding this is very welcome – we know the cost to other spending departments.
“What is clear is that the gap between demand and resources by 2020 will be at least £30bn – more if you add social care. That can be closed by two means – income and efficiency. With the extra funding set out in the Five Year Forward View, the NHS will need to find unprecedented levels of efficiency savings of at least £22bn. If parties put less in, then we will need to be even more efficient or cut services.
“If we are to succeed, the political parties must be straight with the public about the huge scale of the savings and increases in productivity required over the next parliament. It means we will need to fundamentally change the way we provide care for millions of patients which itself will require funds for “double running” services and investment in estates, IT and innovation.”
“We need to move away from arbitrary targets in manifestos for increasing specific sorts of staff. Instead the next government must help facilitate sustainable long term workforce planning, which meets the needs of local areas. Any promise to increase staff will need to be backed by an appropriate increase in funding for the health service.”
“Plans for social care funding need to be clearer. When social care is cut, often the NHS feels the pain. According to estimates from Age UK, nearly 382,000 fewer people receive fully funded social care today compared to in 2005/6. The charity also estimates there are 900,000 older people between 65 and 89 who have unmet needs for social care. Many will see health issues arise as a consequence, adding to the pressure on NHS services and budgets. The next government will need to urgently find a sustainable funding settlement for social care.
“If we are to tackle the big challenges, the NHS needs stability. Whoever starts on the task of implementing their manifesto in government must be mindful of the disastrous impact any centrally driven reorganisation will have on local efforts to improve care. We would urge any incoming government to commit to the principles set out in both the Five Year Forward View and by the 2015 Challenge partnership.”