OPINION: Tory vs Lib Dem manifesto – no comparison when it comes to care

Newcross Healthcare non-executive director, Suhail Mirza, on the recent health and social care manifestos announced by Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives.

Suhail Mirza, Newcross Healthcare non-executive director

The Election countdown continues and we have seen the Liberal Democrats and Conservative Party launch their manifestos.

The Conservatives healthcare-related manifesto commitments are an exercise in caution with relatively insignificant proposed increases in primary care services; the proposed building of 100 new GP surgeries is hardly likely to shift the needle given the pressures on primary care.

The number of GP surgeries has, for example, fallen from 7,600 to 6,300 since 2015, and the number of fully trained, full time-equivalent GP’s has fallen by 1,800 over this period.

The Conservatives also offer the usual canard to long-term critics of the very ethos of the NHS through a promise to reduce the number of managers within the NHS. This is likely to reduce NHS productivity; studies show it is comparatively lean when it comes to management numbers and the decimation of management talent that occurred in the 2012 reforms should be avoided.

It is welcome to see the mention of social care charging reforms (with a £86,000 lifetime limit on social care costs) albeit this was promised before and then kicked into the long grass. There is, alas, no meaningful commitment to properly fund the sector without which commissioning, care delivery and effective workforce within it will all suffer.

By contrast, the Liberal Democrats have been bold enough to call for free personal care in England, increases in levels of pay (at a rate of £2 above the standard minimum wage) for care professionals and a Royal College of Care Workers.

There have been reports that the Labour Party will introduce a £12 per hour minimum wage for carers; if this is so then it is welcomed but there must be detailed policy priority to fully fund the sector and roll back the regressive impact of under funding which has brought the sector to its current crisis.

Social care continues to be discussed in the rhetoric of costs when it should be viewed through the lense of the contribution it makes to our society. £55 billion of economic value add.

The Future Care Coalition (including the likes of Stephen Dorrell and Minister of State for Care Services, Phil Hope) last year argued that for every £1 invested in the sector, over £1.75 of value is generated.

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