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Health leaders react to general election announcement

The RCN and BMA have urged politicians to make NHS their top priority, and warn against using it as ‘a political football’

Health leaders have responded to the announcement of an early general election to be held in July as a chance to prioritise the health of the NHS.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and the British Medical Association (BMA) expect parties to have a plan to address the crises in the health care service.

The BMA said the general election comes at a ‘crucial time and is a chance to guarantee the future of our NHS for everyone.’

Professor Phil Banfield, BMA chair of council said: ‘The NHS is in crisis, with a demoralised workforce who are run down after years of being overworked and real terms pay cuts, and more than a decade of rising waiting lists and cuts to services. We cannot allow our health services to continue stumbling from crisis to crisis. All parties must make the health of the NHS their top priority. They must commit to valuing, retaining, and investing in the workforce, so we can give patients the care they need and deserve.’

The RCN said they are looking for ‘firm commitments to address frailties’ but Professor Pat Cullen, RCN general secretary and chief executive warned against making the NHS a ‘political football.’

She said: ‘Patients need safer care, staff need fairer treatment, starting with their pay – these issues must be central to the election debate in the coming weeks. Investment in health and care services is the number one priority for voters and fundamental to a healthy society and economy. Politicians must show they have the answers to widespread health and care workforce shortages and poor population health.’

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Both the Conservative and Labour parties have pledged to introduce measures to reduce pressures on the NHS.

PM Rishi Sunak said the Government is planning to boost hospital capacity, build new hospitals and give new powers to pharmacy technicians, dental hygienists and dental therapists to supply and administer medicines.

Labour has announced plans to deliver 40,000 more evening and weekend appointments a week, provide more health technology and equipment and cut red tape in GP practices.

However, the early announcement and party pledges ‘do not change plans for GP collective action,’ said Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer, BMA GP committee chair for England (GPCE).  

The BMA is preparing to ballot on GP collective action, aimed at forcing improvements in the GMS contract. The GPCE said this is the ‘first phase of action and further escalation beyond a non-statutory ballot can be stopped if the Government agrees to make contractual improvements to staffing and funding in 2024/25.’