General Election 2010- cuts inevitable as NHS must make savings

The NHS is facing upheaval and cutbacks as a decade of budget increases comes to an end and £20 billion of savings must be found over the next five years.

Despite pledges from Labour and the Conservatives to protect front line services, there is evidence that their promises may have come too late.

A list of cuts has already been identified – including job losses, banning certain operations, closing casualty departments, downgrading maternity services and reducing the number of junior doctors. But these have been mostly quietly ignored by the three main parties.

The Conservatives pledged to stop all closures until they could be reviewed but, with billions of pounds of savings needed to cope with growing demand, cuts and closures are almost inevitable.

David Cameron emphasised that he was personally in favour of the NHS, after his experiences with his disabled son Ivan, who died last year, to combat arguments that the health service was not safe in Tory hands. The party manifesto contained promises about dentistry and round-the-clock GP services which appear too expensive in the current climate.

Both the major parties were accused of chasing the “fear of cancer” vote. The Tories said they would fund cancer drugs turned down by Nice, the health rationing watchdog, but did not mention drugs for other illnesses such as arthritis or dementia.

Labour said cancer patients would see a specialist and have test results back within a week. The party was criticised for unveiling its manifesto at a new hospital in Birmingham. It is against the rules to use NHS premises for election events.

But Labour pointed out that the hospital was still in the hands of the private finance initiative organisation – a policy which means the NHS will be repaying billions of pounds for new hospitals for decades.

Nick Clegg refused to ring-fence NHS spending given the size of the national debt.

The Liberal Democrat campaign focused on cutting waste on managers, scrapping regional strategic health authorities and pledging more power to communities to direct the health service locally.


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