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NHS leader warns politicians not to ‘weaponise’ the health service

Top exec challenges main parties to provide credible solutions to big issues

NHS

In a scathing statement issued yesterday, NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson warned election campaigners against using the health service as a “political weapon”.

Despite many predicting that the upcoming 12 December poll would be a single-issue Brexit election, the main parties have decided to turn the focus on to the NHS.

The popularity of the NHS makes it a desirable target for politicians hoping to win the favour of the public, but Hopson has said that it can become "counter-productive" in election battles. According to his statement, "frontline NHS leaders are worried" that the health service is already being weaponised.

Although the NHS is falling short in a number of areas, including failing to keep to key targets for A&E, cancer care and diagnostic tests, and waiting list increases, NHS leaders have warned against distorting or over-dramatising these issues for political gain.

In particular, Hopson pointed to competing commitments to increase NHS budgets, noting that in previous election campaigns the NHS has been “a serial victim of politicians slicing and dicing funding numbers and making empty promises that were never actually delivered”.

The Tories have already pledged a £2.7bn investment in six hospitals over five years, with £70m also being invested in mental health pilot areas. Under the plans, a further 34 hospitals are set to receive £100m in initial funding to start developing projects. This additional investment adds on to the extra £20bn in funding agreed by Theresa May’s government, which is available up to 2023.

The Labour party, on the other hand, has yet to reveal the exact details of its plans for the NHS, but party leader Jeremy Corbyn has said he will end austerity in the NHS by delivering a “proper funding settlement”.

Despite spending on the NHS increasing exponentially over the past 70 years – the scale of those rises varies considerably. The average rise has been just over 4%, with the biggest rises seen under the Labour government between 1997 and 2010 when the average annual rise was around 6%.

Another major issue is the possibility that the NHS would be paying a significant amount more than usual for its annual drugs spending if a UK-US trade deal is agreed post-Brexit.

A recent Channel 4 Dispatches investigation estimated that this spending could jump from £18bn to £45bn if the US government and drug companies can negotiate such numbers.

Although health secretary Matt Hancock has said that the NHS will not have to pay more for medicines, US president Donald Trump maintained any country that wishes to strike a trade deal with the US will have to pay higher prices for American drugs.

Article by
Lucy Parsons

5th November 2019

From: Healthcare

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