Don’t use NHS as “political weapon” in election campaign, managers say

The state of the National Health Service is always a major issue come election time, and the run-up to the UK’s 12 December poll this year is unlikely to be an exception.

But an organisation representing senior staff in the NHS has urged political parties of all colours against making unattainable promises ahead of the vote.

With both the Conservatives and Labour already pledging to spend billions to improve care, NHS Providers has urged politicians against using the health service as a “weapon” in the election campaign.

Chris Hopson, CEO of NHS Providers, told the The Times website that parties must refrain from “over-dramatising” the challenges facing the NHS, saying that this will “do nothing to help those frontline staff who are working flat out for patients.”

“Equally disingenuous claims about extra funding, or promises that create unrealistic expectations, may be tempting the heat of the election battle, but they do the health service no favours.”

Speaking on the BBC’s Today programme, Hopson went on to call for a “proper, mature, evidence-based” debate on what the NHS needs.

“Let’s not resort to the cheap political slogans and skimming across the top which is what we’ve seen over the last four or five elections,” he said.

And Carrie MacEwen, representing the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, said that undeliverable promises “set up the NHS to fail.”

“The NHS’s role is to manage the health of the nation, not to be used as a tool to swing voters in a three-way marginal,” she told the Times. “Our fear is in these febrile times we will see irrational, undeliverable promises or even outright lies.”

Boris Johnson’s Conservatives are expected to announce extra spending on the health service in England, including £2.7 billion for six hospitals over five years, and £100 million for another 34 hospitals to start developing future projects.

This is in addition to an extra £20 billion funding agreed by Theresa May’s government up to 2023.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has countered this by pledging to end austerity in the NHS with a “proper funding settlement”, with details expected in the party’s manifesto.

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