Sunday 15 December 2019
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The Kings Fund responds to the Conservative party manifesto

The Conservative manifesto offers a number of welcome NHS pledges, particularly to confront the current workforce crisis. However, the overall funding package pledged for frontline NHS services is less generous than the offers from the other major political parties and doesn’t represent a comprehensive funding plan that includes workforce training, capital funding, adult social care or public health.

‘The nursing maintenance grant is a very welcome first step toward addressing the current deep nursing shortages, but we really need to see a credible plan for tackling the chronic staffing shortages across both the NHS and social care. Finding the extra doctors and nurses pledged in the manifesto poses a huge challenge. The Conservatives rightly acknowledge the crucial need to recruit internationally in the short term to fill the staffing gap and have put forward proposals to mitigate the up-front costs of coming to work in the NHS, but this may still be insufficient and there is a lack of clarity over how this squares with commitments elsewhere in the manifesto on immigration.

‘The additional £1 billion to give a short-term boost to social care services for both adults and children is not enough to meet rising demand for care while maintaining the current quality and accessibility of services. 

‘Despite making a similar pledge to bring forward reform in 2017, social care funding has once again been put back in the too difficult box. Viewing the debate only in terms of older people not having to sell their homes is a disappointingly narrow framing of the problems in social care, and cross-party talks without a concrete proposal are unlikely to deliver meaningful reform. This is not only a devastating blow for the people and their families who rely on a currently failing system. Social care is also a major concern for voters and a continually ailing system will also impact on the finances, performance and quality of care in the NHS. 

‘While a good funding offer for frontline NHS services is essential for health and wellbeing, these also rely on social care, public health and having the staff and facilities to provide them. It is therefore deeply disappointing that these have been excluded from the funding pledges.’