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General election response: Patients Association warns that the potential NHS funding crisis and the challenges of Brexit won’t be going away

In response to the result of the general election last week, the Patients Association has warned that at least two monumental challenges – a funding crisis in health and social care, and the need to navigate Brexit – are looming and require an effective response from the Government, whatever its composition.

Liz McAnulty, Chair of the Patients Association, says: “At a time when there are immediate and clearly visible risks to the quality of care people will receive from our health and social care system, their safety within it and their overall experience, it is essential that the Government develops a clear focus on the needs of patients “Both the potential crisis in health and social care funding and the need to make a success of Brexit are still looming, and will not stop because of a complex and unexpected election result. We cannot afford a period of paralysis or inertia in government.”

The Patients Association has issued a policy statement assessing the implications of the general election result for people who need, or will need, health and social care services. The paper states: “The inescapable fact is therefore that a Government has been elected – albeit with a somewhat limited mandate – on a programme that does not provide for a sustainable set of health and social care services. Without a change in direction by the Government, there is now no prospect of us avoiding a major crisis in the NHS, on top of the existing one in social care. This crisis will not hold off while Westminster politics sorts itself out into a more workable shape or adapts to the new political landscape – it will come whether our politicians are ready for it or not. “We strongly advise the Government to show leadership on funding, by committing to increase the share of GDP spent on health and social care to the levels recommended by the Barker Commission and the Office for Budgetary Responsibility, and maybe even including a ‘double lock’ to include a per-capita measure too, in case GDP suffers a sharp fall.”

The statement also calls on the voluntary sector to be more vocal on fiscal policy, and challenge assumptions around the importance attached by politicians to ‘tackling the deficit’. On Brexit, the paper warns that it will render it impossible to meet many of the promises for new legislation in the Conservative manifesto: “The Conservative manifesto’s multiple commitments for legislation – for a new Mental Health Bill, putting HSIB and the National Data Guardian for Health and Social Care on a statutory footing, amending the rules on social care funding, and changing the rules around the internal market if necessary – must now be open to question. They take no account of the extent to which Brexit will made across multiple other policy areas), let alone the difficulty of passing legislation through a hung parliament.

“We strongly urge the Government to take a hard-headed approach to Brexit that recognises the many practical dangers that would arise from getting it wrong. It must aim for a transitional deal, guarantee the rights of existing health and social care workers in the UK, secure the ability to recruit further numbers, stay as firmly as possible in the necessary markets for medicines and materials, and under no circumstances walk away from talks without a deal.

“The Patients Association will support all efforts to meet these serious challenges for the benefit of everyone who needs, or will need, health and social care. We are ready to work with the Government and all stakeholders in pursuit of workable solutions to these pressing problems.”

Notes to editors:

The Patients Association’s full policy statement on the general election result can be read here.

The Patients Association published five key recommendations ahead of the general election on its campaign website here.

The Office for Budgetary Responsibility’s forecast of future spending requirements can be read here: http://budgetresponsibility.org.uk/fsr/fiscal-sustainability-report-january-2017/

The final report of the Barker Commission can be read here: https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/projects/commission-future-health-and-socialcare-england

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