General election 2017: The NHS

With the election upon us, UNISON considers its five key demands for the NHS – and how the main parties measure up in their manifestos

Increase NHS funding

With many hospitals and other services stretched to breaking point, UNISON wants to see a major funding boost for our NHS.

All of the main parties have committed to providing extra funding for the NHS in one form or another.

In England, Labour will commit to over £30bn in extra funding over the next Parliament. The Conservatives will increase NHS spending by a minimum of £8bn in real terms over the next five years. The Lib Dems will put a penny on income tax to raise an extra £6bn for health and social care.

Based on these headline statements, an analysis by the Nuffield Trust think tank estimates that, by 2022-23, Labour would be spending £135.3bn on the NHS, the Lib Dems £132.2bn and the Conservatives £131.7bn.

In addition, both Labour and the Conservatives have pledged to boost capital spending, and Labour and the Lib Dems have suggested the creation of an Office of Budget Responsibility for health (or similar) to oversee spending.

The Green Party says it will close the NHS spending gap and provide an immediate cash injection.

With health being a devolved matter, the parties’ attitudes to austerity and overall public spending will affect what levels of funding are allocated from Westminster to the devolved nations’ health services, with the Labour Party offering to substantially increase overall public spending.

For its part, the SNP will call for an increase in frontline health spending and additional money for Scotland’s health and social care partnerships. And Plaid Cymru would aim to hold the Leave campaign to account and push for a Welsh share of the £350m promised to the NHS after leaving the EU.

“Our NHS is in dire need of more money.

“And while it is encouraging that all parties have offered increased spending, the Labour Party is promising the biggest funding package.”

UNISON policy officer Guy Collis


Provide decent pay and reinstate the NHS bursary

The living standards of health staff have been ground down by years of pay freezes and the ongoing pay cap – UNISON wants them to receive a decent pay rise as a matter of urgency.

In England, the union wants the NHS bursary for student nurses, midwives and allied health professionals to be restored, allowing more young people to take up healthcare courses without the fear of student poverty.

Both Labour and the Lib Dems have promised to end the public-sector pay cap. Labour and the SNP make a point of supporting the independence of the NHS Pay Review Body. The SNP says that should a UK government continue with pay restraint, it will explore the creation of distinct Scottish pay review arrangements.

Both Labour and the Lib Dems promise to reintroduce the NHS bursary for healthcare students in England, with the SNP committed to protecting the bursary in Scotland.

“Once again the Conservatives have failed to commit to paying health staff a decent wage and remain stubbornly attached to penalising healthcare students.

“This is simply not sustainable and will damage patient care.”

UNISON deputy head of health Sara Gorton.


Guarantee the right to remain for EU staff

UNISON wants to see an immediate reassurance for EU staff working in our public services that they have the right to remain in the UK following the vote to leave the European Union.

Labour, the Lib Dems and the SNP all say they will guarantee the rights of EU staff working in health and care services. However, the Conservatives have stopped short of this, saying only that they will make this a priority in negotiations with the EU.


Put patients first and halt privatisation

UNISON wants a publicly delivered NHS in which service change is based on evidence and the needs of patients, rather than any requirement to cut costs.

Labour says it will halt and review NHS Sustainability and Transformation Plans, and reverse NHS privatisation by scrapping the Health and Social Care Act and providing a new legal duty to ensure excess private profits are not made out of the NHS.

The Conservatives will review the operation of the internal market and will make non-legislative changes to remove barriers to the integration of care.

The SNP would support a cross-party NHS Reinstatement Bill to return the NHS in England to its founding principles, with the Greens also promising to roll back NHS privatisation. The Lib Dems will establish a cross-party health and social care convention, to include a review of the practicalities of greater integration.

“Privatisation has repeatedly failed to deliver for NHS patients and staff.

“So it is encouraging to hear that Labour plans to scrap Andrew Lansley’s disastrous Health and Social Care Act, which was designed to bring in a far bigger role for the private sector.”

Guy Collis


Improve the working lives of health staff

UNISON wants the day-to-day experience of working in the NHS to be better, with a commitment to addressing staff numbers, workloads, stress, bullying and violence.

Labour promises to legislate to ensure safe staffing levels in the NHS and the SNP has also committed to this in Scotland. Both Labour and the Lib Dems pledge support and protection for whistleblowers to make it easier for them to speak up.

Labour will make it an aggravated criminal offence to attack NHS staff and promises to provide free car parking for patients, staff and visitors.

“Safe staffing is an essential part of a modern NHS that puts patients first.

“And it is high time that health staff were given proper protection from violence in the workplace.”

Sara Gorton

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