NHS Confederation responds to Labour Party manifesto

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation responds to the Labour Party manifesto.

13 June 2024

Responding to the Labour Party’s manifesto Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said:

“With so many people waiting for treatments any plans that prioritise clearing the backlogs of care will be welcomed by health leaders. Not just in the acute sector but mental health, community health and primary care services as well.

“The NHS and its staff have come through a turbulent period and are just turning the corner after a very difficult winter. But we know performance is not where we want it to be, and leaders and their teams have had to make some tough decisions in order to meeting ever rising demand.

“While the ambitions to provide 40,000 appointments a week and return to meeting performance standards are laudable, the NHS still has around 100,000 vacancies with staff already often working beyond their set hours. Added to that, crumbling estates are holding back NHS productivity. Promises to cut waiting lists and hit performance targets cannot be made on the back of asking hardworking staff to do more and without more capital investment. So we welcome the Labour Party’s commitment to invest in new equipment and improve the NHS estate. 

“Labour’s plans to improve collaboration are very welcome and we hope these will build on the work already carried out by integrated care systems (ICS). We have stressed that Labour must not bypass ICSs to tackle elective care waits because this could undermine system working.

“Sir Keir opening his speech on children’s health will also be welcomed by our members, especially on top of the manifesto’s the focus on young people’s mental health and dental care. We know that there is very high demand from children and young people for mental health and dental services, and that many are being left waiting too long to get the support they so desperately need. But recruiting more staff could take time, especially if we need to increase training places. So we would like to see some short-term solutions to address these problems as well.

“The focus on a progressive smoking ban, clamping down on underage vaping and introducing a junk food advertising ban before the watershed are all measures that could help improve people’s health. The pledge to halve the gap in healthy life expectancy between the areas with the highest and lowest levels of deprivation in England echoes our call for this to be a priority for the incoming government.

“The mission approach that Labour has set out with a focus on driving outcomes could pave the way for a fundamental rethinking of how governments approach health and wellbeing across the country. We have been calling for the next government to commit to a cross-government health improvement mission because our members know that 80 per cent of what affects people's health is outside the NHS. This will be key to building the health of the nation."