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The Manifestos: What are the Key Health & Social Care Election Pledges?

As the UK’s major parties release their manifestos, it’s clear that the NHS remains a major focal point of the campaign. Rob Walker, Head of Health & Social Care at techUK, sets out what digital health and care companies need to know about key pledges from the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats. *  

The Conservative Party Manifesto  

The manifesto commits a future Conservative Government to a number of key pledges to improve health and social care service, including: 

  • Using technology to improve NHS productivity, re-committing to investing £3.4 billion as outlined in the spring budget 
  • Increasing NHS spending above inflation in each year of the next Parliament 
  • Awarding local authorities a multi-year funding settlement to support social care and taking forward the reforms in the ‘People at the Heart of Care’ White Paper 
  • Capping social care costs from October 2025 
  • Supporting the shift from acute care and into the community 
  • To support this, the Conservatives have committed to expanding Pharmacy First, building an additional 250 GP surgeries and 50 more Community Diagnostic Centres. 
  • Continuing commitment to the New Hospitals Programme, and investing more in out-of-hospital services over time. 
  • Continuing to invest in the UK life sciences sector, supporting research into new treatments, removing red tape and implementing a new medtech pathway  
  • Implementing new digital health checks for 250,000 more people every year 
  • Reducing the number of NHS Managers by over 5,000 
  • Prioritising women’s health  
  • improving mental health support 

What does this mean for the digital health & care sector? 

The manifesto outlines positive policy proposals but lacks key details in how these objectives will be achieved.  

The desire to move towards community-based care will require continued investment in remote patient monitoring and virtual ward technologies, which will be crucial to making this vision a reality. 

Pledges to implement previously promised programmes of work raise serious doubts about the commitment to such pledges. For example, sustainable social care funding for local authorities and the implementation of the ‘People at the Heart of Social Care’ whitepaper are welcome, as is the continuation of the New Hospital Programme, but little progress since the last election has led to much scepticism. 

The digital health industry will welcome the implementation of a new medical technology pathway to enable rapid adoption. Indeed, there is currently a consultation underway on this issue; techUK is holding a session on June 27th to discuss it further. 

The Conservative Manifesto outlines exciting objectives for the health & care sector, and signals a real drive to implement digital solutions. However, industry will treat these pledges with some suspicion given a poor track record of delivery and broken promises.  

The Labour Party Manifesto 

Labour’s manifesto outlines a desire to reform the NHS and ensure it remains fit for the 21st century, with a clear focus on fundamental reform and prevention. The manifesto also outlines a move towards community-based care, managing long-term conditions and mental health. Key commitments include: 

  • Delivering an extra two million NHS operations, scans, and appointments every year 
  • Using the private sector to speed up diagnosis and treatment  
  • Regularly publish independent workforce planning across health and social care and deliver the NHS long-term workforce plan  
  • Delivering the New Hospitals Programme  
  • Developing an NHS innovation and adoption strategy in England, including a plan for procurement, a clearer route to bring products into the NHS and reformed incentive structures to drive innovation and faster regulatory approval for new technology and medicines 
  • Reforming primary care and committing to train thousands more GPs, guarantying a face-to-face appointment for all those who want one and delivering a modern appointment booking system 
  • Create a Community Pharmacist Prescribing Service and Neighbourhood Health Centres 
  • Ensuring consistency of social care, underpinned by a ‘home first’ policy which  includes establishing a Fair Pay Agreement for adult social care staff and developing local partnership working between social care and the NHS to expediate the hospital discharge process  
  • Exploring the feasibility of establishing a National Care Service  

Labour has also pledged to undertake a preventative approach to public health, reduce health inequalities, introduce mental health legislation, digitise the red book and regulate NHS managers.  

What does this mean for the digital health & care sector? 

Like the Conservative manifesto, while ambitious, the Labour manifesto lacks key details on how it would achieve its aims. Commitments to use AI in diagnostics, as well as intentions to produce regular workforce planning are welcome. However, techUK would strongly encourage the publication of a specific digital workforce plan for the NHS, which is been rumoured to have been shelved.  A dedicated digital workforce plan would outline how a Labour Government would tackle the current digital skills shortage, which will be crucial in implementing Labour’s Health Technology pledges. It also remains to be seen how Labour would deliver the New Hospitals Programme without any new funding commitments. 

While Labour's commitment to innovation is a positive sign for the healthtech sector, questions remain about how they will navigate reform of the NHS procurement process, particularly in light of the recent Procurement Act and Provider Selection Regime. 

Although industry may support the intention behind reforming Primary and Social Care, serious questions remain about funding and the role of technology. Effectively utilising virtual wards and remote patient monitoring, particularly for post-discharge care, will be crucial for achieving Labour’s intentions. 

Industry welcomes the clear commitment to technology, although unclear funding commitments within the manifesto could create uncertainty for the healthtech industry in achieving these objectives. 

The Liberal Democrat Manifesto  

The Liberal Democrats have heavily focused upon Primary Care reform, a community- based approach (including expanding the Pharmacy First approach) and improving access to mental health services. The key digital health and care objectives include: 

  • The right to see a GP or the most appropriate practice staff member within seven days, or within 24 hours if they urgently need through a variety of measures 
  • Introducing a universal 24/7 GP booking system 
  • Halving the time for new treatments to reach patients by expanding the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency’s (MHRA) capacity 
  • Establishing a ‘Health Creation Unit’ in the Cabinet Office to lead work across government to improve the nation’s health and tackle health inequalities  
  • Introducing a new kitemark for health apps and digital tools that are clinically proven to help people lead healthier lives 
  • Training, recruiting and retaining NHS staff via establishing a ‘properly’ independent pay review body, a ten-year retention plan and other measures  
  • Implement a ten-year plan to invest in hospitals and the primary care estate 
  • Improve faster access to new and novel medicines and medical devices by seeking a comprehensive mutual recognition agreement with the European Medicines Agency 

Like the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats have explicitly outlined how they would implement technology to improve the health sector. Industry will welcome the desire to ring-fence budgets for the adoption of innovative tools, replacing legacy technology and mandating interoperability. They have also outlined their intention to ensure every care setting has an electronic patient record (EPR) and expand virtual ward technology.  

The Manifesto also sets out how the Party will improve the social care sector. The Liberal Democrats would implement measures such as: 

  • Improving communication standards so carers can support care users to co-produce and monitor care plans and developing a strategy for tech enabled lives 
  • Making a career in social care more attractive by creating a Carer’s Minimum Wage, creating a comprehensive career plan with the creation of a Royal College of Care Workers 
  • Expanding the NHS Digital Staff Passport  
  • Creating a Social Care Workforce Plan  

What does this mean for the digital health & care sector? 

techUK's social care members will welcome specific actions on improving the care system. However, doubts remain about how certain goals will be met, particularly recruiting more GPs and expanding the NHS Digital Staff Passport programme. The latter initiative has also raised concerns about cybersecurity. 

Industry players will welcome plans for a health app "kitemark" scheme. This initiative echoes techUK's advocacy for a standardised accreditation system. Such a system would streamline the approval process for developers, allowing their apps to be easily recognised and adopted across various Integrated Care Systems (ICSs).  

techUK members will also welcome the manifesto's dedication to protecting funding for cutting-edge technologies. This aligns with techUK's longstanding push for such measures. Ring-fenced budgets will ensure consistent investment in innovation, ultimately benefiting the healthcare sector. 

Conclusion 

techUK broadly welcomes the commitments laid out in each manifesto, with all parties committing to the use of digital technology in the healthcare sector. However, stable, sustained, and ringfenced investment is crucial for the adoption of new technologies. Furthermore, more detail on how these pledges will be funded would provide greater assurance to the healthtech industry.  

If you are interested in keeping up-to-date with the election more broadly, please sign-up to our election newsletter by emailing election.enquiries@techuk.org and check out our general election hub

 

Channel website: http://www.techuk.org/

Original article link: https://www.techuk.org/resource/the-manifestos-what-are-the-key-health-social-care-election-pledges.html

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