Tomorrow, Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn will go head to head as they battle to be prime minister of the UK. But should the Conservatives win, what will the future hold for the healthcare sector?
On June 8th, citizens across the UK will head to their local polling station to cast a vote that will determine who the country’s next prime minister will be. Usually, a General Election occurs every five years, meaning that the UK’s next scheduled election was due to be held in May 2020.
However, following the UK’s shock vote to leave the European Union (EU), the sitting prime minister David Cameron stepped down from his role as leader after campaigning to Remain a part of the Union.
He told the British public that they required “fresh” leadership to take the country in the right direction when leaving the EU. Former home secretary Theresa May stepped forward to lead the UK, despite having also campaigned for the country to Remain in the EU. Because of these unique circumstances, Mrs May was named prime minister without being elected.
With much uncertainty and conflict in parliament surrounding Brexit procedures, last month Mrs May called a snap election. She argued that her election decision was to give voters a say in who they wanted to lead the country into a post-Brexit Britain.
While the scale of funding for health and care services in the UK may seem huge - in the UK the NHS bill is nearly £124 billion in 2017/18, accounting for 15 per cent of all public spending - in reality, when spread across the country, there is a need for further funds. This means that whichever party wins the upcoming election, commitments for NHS spending will not be marginal. Instead, these will be at the heart of tax and spending policy.
According to The Health Foundation, there are three main healthcare issues that the new government must quickly address. The foundation argues that:
While immediate issues will be at the forefront of the government's agenda, long-term plans must also be addressed. They are crucial for the UK to keep up the increasing and ageing population, rising chronic disease levels, to meet public expectations for healthcare, and to fund new technologies and medical advances. With the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) claiming that funding pressure will rise by over four per cent a year in real terms in the next decade, it’s clear that the coming years will be a challenge for any government.
Under Mrs May, the Conservative government pledges to “introduce the most ambitious programme of investment in buildings and technology the NHS has ever seen”. This means that the party would back the recommendations of Sir Robert Naylor’s review of NHS Property and Estates, which called for a £10 billion investment in healthcare premises to deliver NHS England’s Five Year Forward View.
The Tory manifesto also claims to provide exceptional healthcare “whenever, wherever, delivered by an NHS with the money, buildings and people it needs”. It states that currently, the legislative landscape is dominating the government’s own health reforms and hampering the Five Year Forward View or undermining local or national accountability, they will fix it.
However, in the meantime, Mrs May has identified the internal market as a key problem for the current healthcare system, because it is too expensive to run and can fail to work in patients' interests.