How achievable are the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat pledges on the NHS?

The Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats have set out ambitious plans for the NHS in their respective election manifestos. The challenge for the next government will be achieving targets in areas such as workforce and access to health services at a time when public sector finances are under severe pressure and there are calls for increased spending in many other areas.

Labour for example has pledged to recruit 8500 additional mental health staff but don’t provide much detail on how this workforce expansion will be funded. The Liberal Democrats have promised to recruit 8000 more GPs to ensure everyone can see a GP within seven days or within 24 hours for urgent needs. However, the recent decline in NHS GPs in England casts doubt on the feasibility of this pledge. The Conservatives propose cutting 5500 managers to save £550 million for frontline services. Yet, the NHS relies on managers to plan services, manage budgets and ensure compliance with healthcare standards. These cuts could inadvertently disrupt services rather than improve them.

All three parties pledge to take pressure off GP services by extending prescribing rights to other health professionals and expanding programmes such as Pharmacy First. While these initiatives aim to alleviate pressures on GPs, the impact of similar measures has been mixed. Without proper integration and support, such measures may not significantly reduce GP workloads. Pledges on public health and prevention in the manifestos are commendable. However, successful implementation requires appropriate funding, cross-sector collaboration, and long-term commitment to achieving these goals.