The Liberal Democrat manifesto Stop Brexit – Build A Bright Future, was launched on 21 November. It includes plans for:
- a stronger economy
- better education and skills
- a green society and a green economy
- health and social care
- building a fair society
- freedom, rights and equality
- better politics
- a better world.
Although the first three are likely to have an impact on the fourth, health and social care is going to be a major interest. The approach is summarised as:
“Raising £7 billion a year in additional revenue by putting 1p on Income Tax, with this money to be ringfenced for spending on the NHS and social care.
“Transforming mental health by treating it with the same urgency as physical health.
“Reforming the Health and Social Care Act as recommended by the NHS, to make the NHS work in a more efficient and joined-up way, and to end the automatic tendering of services.”
The additional £7 billion will be used to tackle workforce shortages as well as investment in mental health and prevention services. £10 billion of capital funding will be used for equipment, hospitals, community, ambulance and mental health services buildings.
Longer term plans include the development of a dedicated progressive Health and Care Tax, offset by other tax reductions, subject to consultation, which will create a collective budget for health and social care.
In addition, the Liberal Democrats would establish a cross-party health and social care convention to build on existing work to look at the long-term sustainable funding of a joined-up system of health and social care. This will include patients’ groups, professionals, the public and the devolved governments. A cap on the cost of care will be the starting point for this work.
Proposals also include provision for a statutory independent budget monitoring body for health and care.
The approach is described as:
“Our ultimate objective will be to bring together NHS, Social Care and public health seamlessly – pooling budgets in every area and supporting integrated care systems. We want to see services that work in a more joined-up way for the people who depend on them and with local democratic accountability and transparency.”
Mental health is a significant priority with plans to introduce further mental health maximum waiting time standards, starting with children’s services, services for people with eating disorders, and severe and enduring conditions.
There is a commitment to increasing access to talking therapies, including equal access for older people, BAME and LGBT+ patients, and people with autism or learning disabilities.
Perinatal mental health support will have a focus on early care for those who are pregnant, new mothers and those who have experienced miscarriage or stillbirth and all new mothers will get a dedicated maternal postnatal appointment as well other measures to tackle under-diagnosis of maternal physical and mental health problems
Transition between children’s and adults’ services will ensure uninterrupted care, and a Student Mental Health Charter will require a good level of mental health provisions and services for students.
Mental health support and treatment within the criminal justice system will be improved to ensure continuity of mental health care and addiction treatment in prison and the community
There are commitments to end the GP shortfall by 2025 by both training more GPs and making greater appropriate use of nurses, physiotherapists and pharmacists,
The party will move towards single place-based budgets for health and social care – encouraging collaboration between local authorities and the NHS in commissioning, for example, through pooled budgets. It will encourage emerging governance structures for Integrated Care Systems to include local government, and be accountable to them.
The manifesto includes a number of measures to support carers including a statutory guarantee of regular respite breaks for unpaid carers, a package of carer benefits such as free leisure centre access, free bus travel for young carers, and self-referral to socially prescribed activities and courses.
The party also proposes a number of public health measures including a childhood obesity strategy and legislation on food labeling and advertising. A levy on tobacco products and minimum pricing for alcohol are designed to promote healthier lifestyles.
Bren McGowan- Healthwatch Workplace, Nov 2019
Senior Policy Advisor at Healthwatch England