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Hancock says UK will consider mandatory vaccinations

Conservatives' also announce £13bn investment for hospitals over next decade

Vaccine

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said that childhood vaccinations could become compulsory in order to fight the increase in preventable diseases like measles.

The comments – made during a satellite event to the Conservative party conference in Manchester – come after a report found that vaccination rates dropped for all 13 recommended childhood vaccinations in 2018/19.

Hancock said there was a “very strong argument” for making vaccines mandatory for all children going to school in England after the UK lost its measles-free status earlier this year, adding “I think the public would back us”.

Cases of hospitalisation for measles in England rose by two-thirds in 2018/19 compared to the previous year, from 198 to 328, and the UK is now thought to have the second-lowest MMR vaccination rate after France across Europe.

The Health Secretary said he had taken legal advice on how such a policy could be implemented, given that unvaccinated children were putting others at risk from diseases, although he acknowledged “some children can’t be vaccinated and some parents may resist because of strong religious convictions that would have to be taken into account".

However, he stressed that “the proportion of people in either of those two categories is tiny compared to the 7% or 8% now who don’t get vaccinated”.

He singled out social media companies for particular criticism, saying they were not doing enough to stamp down on misinformation and anti-vaccine messages on their platforms.

Hospital investment

The revelation almost threatened to distract attention from the Conservatives’ flagship health policy statement at the conference, namely that the government intends to spend £13bn ($16bn) on capital investment on hospitals over the next decade, including entirely new buildings.

An initial tranche of £2.7bn has been earmarked for six hospitals over five years, namely Whipps Cross Hospital, Epsom and St Helier Trust, West Hertfordshire Trust, Princess Alexandra Hospital Trust, University Hospitals of Leicester Trust and Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust.

Work on those upgrades is ready to start as funding is in place, with another 34 hospitals in line to receive £100m in ‘seed funding’ in the coming years, with the remainder of the money having to be raised from the taxpayer in the future. There’s also a £200m fund to replace and upgrade scanning equipment such as MRI and CT machines.

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth took issue with Hancock’s assertion that this was “a go-ahead for 40 new hospitals” – a position also taken by Boris Johnson – tweeting “this isn't 40 new hospitals, it is just reconfiguring six”.

tweet

Hancock later told Sky News that the funding is being given now “to get the project ready so that we can get it built in the years ahead”.

NHS Providers’ chief executive Chris Hopson welcomed the programme but cautioned that the NHS “has been starved of capital since 2010. There’s a £6bn maintenance backlog, £3bn of it safety critical”.

He added: “It’s not just these six hospitals who have crumbling, outdated, infrastructure - community and mental health trusts, ambulance services and other hospitals across the country have equally pressing needs.”

Article by
Phil Taylor

30th September 2019

From: Healthcare

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