Briefing

Conservative Party general election manifesto 2024: NHS Confederation analysis

Analysis of the Conservative Party's health and care pledges in their general election manifesto

11 June 2024

Key pledges

  • Recruit 92,000 more nurses and 28,000 more doctors in the NHS than in 2023 by the end of the next Parliament. 

  • Boost training places for dentists and other dental care professionals by 40 per cent.

  • Expand Pharmacy First, including for menopause support, contraception and treatment for chest infections, freeing up 20 million GP appointments a year. 

  • Build or modernise 250 GP surgeries, focused on areas of new housing growth. 

     

  • Build 50 more Community Diagnostic Centres, including in underserved areas, resulting in an additional 2.5 million checks a year.

     

  • Expand coverage of Mental Health Support Teams from 50 to 100 per cent of schools and colleges in England by 2030 including opening early support hubs for those aged 11-25 in every local community by 2030.  

     

  • Increase the planned expansion of NHS Talking Therapies by 50 per cent, supporting people with anxiety, stress and depression. 

  • Invest £3.4 billion in new technology to transform the NHS for staff and for patients. 

  • Implement the Cass Review which made recommendations to NHS gender services for children and young people.  

This briefing analyses the health and care pledges set out in Conservative party’s manifesto for the 2024 general election. The full manifesto can be accessed here: https://manifesto.conservatives.com/

  • The Conservatives have pledged to recruit an additional 92,000 more nurses and 28,000 more doctors in the NHS than in 2023, which they have committed to carrying out by the end of the next Parliament. 

    On top of this, they would boost training places for dentists and other dental care professionals by 40 per cent which is also very welcome. In addition, there will be further reforms to the dental contract, which have not been specified, but part of this will be ensuring that qualified dentists have to work in the NHS for a number of years or pay back their training costs. 

    Growing the workforce is a key priority for our members, with there being over 100,000 vacancies in the NHS. There is still a gap between the workforce the NHS has, and the demand it is currently facing. That is why it’s so important that the next government commits to fully funding and delivering the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan. 

    The Conservatives have said that they would reduce the number of managers in the NHS by 5,500 in order to fund some of their other proposals. The party have also set out plans to consult on a disbarring regime for NHS managers if they win the general election.  

  • Another big theme of the Conservative manifesto has been to get more people who are economically inactive due to long-term sickness back into work, which stands at almost 3 million people in the UK, as part of broader reforms to the welfare system. 

    They set out that with the right support, people living with poor health and long-term conditions can find that good quality work helps prevent them from becoming more unwell, and helps people to live a fuller life, in turn reducing pressure on health services.  

    The Conservative would invest £700 million in NHS mental health treatment, to ensure that 500,000 more people can access talking therapies.  

  • The Conservatives have pledged to implement the Major Conditions Strategy that has been in development for the past year and take forward the Rare Diseases Action Plan.  

    If they are elected back to government, they will take forward the Tobacco and Vapes Bill in their first King’s Speech, which made it to Second Reading during the last parliament.  

    In addition, the party has said they would legislate to restrict the advertising of products high in fat, salt and sugar, whilst also gathering new evidence on the impact of ultra processed food to support people to make healthier choices. 

    The party have said they would roll out new digital health checks to 250,000 more people every year, which would help to prevent hundreds of strokes and heart attacks.  

    They have also pledged to take forward the NHS Vaccination Strategy. 

  • Digital has been another key theme in the Conservatives manifesto, with them pledging to invest £3.4 billion in new technology.  

    This money would go towards replacing tens of thousands of outdated computers, slashing the 13 million hours in doctors’ and nurses’ time lost to IT issues every year, and digitising NHS processes through the Federated Data Platform, with the ambition to make the NHS App the single front door for NHS. 

    Funding will also be made available to technology which helps clinicians to read MRI and CT scans more quickly and accurately, speeding up results for 130,000 patients every year. In addition, there is a commitment to use more AI to free up doctors’ and nurses’ time for frontline patient care. 

    The key aim of all this investment in digital is to boost NHS productivity which the party say will grow by 1.9 per cent a year from 2025-26, unlocking £35 billion of cumulative savings by the end of the decade. 

  • The Conservatives have placed a significant focus on bringing more care services into the community, as part of their plans to secure a modern NHS for the future. They have also pledged to continue delivering 40 new hospitals by 2030, whilst investing proportionately in more out-of-hospital services over time. 

    In order to shift more care into the community, the party have said that they would build an additional 100 GP practices in areas experiencing new housing growth alongside refurbishing 150 surgeries. 

    The Tories have also said they would expand the Pharmacy First Scheme by empowering pharmacists to provide treatment for more health conditions such as acne and chest infections, with the aim of freeing up 20 million GP appointments. 

    And finally, the party has set out plans to build 50 new Community Diagnostic Centres. This would deliver a further 2.5 million checks and diagnostic tests a year in local communities, once fully scaled. 

    On social care, the Conservatives have pledged to give local authorities a multi-year funding settlement to support the sector at the next Spending Review, but it is unclear what this will be. They have said they will also take forward reforms in the 'People at the Heart of Care' White Paper which includes ongoing work to professionalise the workforce and implement planned reforms to cap social care costs from October 2025. 

Confed viewpoint 

Much of the health and care content of the Conservative manifesto are things that have already been announced in the previous months, and we have welcomed many of them.  

In our press response to the manifesto, we welcomed the Conservative proposals to bring more care services into the community. This is a key priority for our members, but we have cautioned that capacity in services in the community needs more attention, with pharmacy is also experiencing the same staffing and estate issues as general practice, where further consideration is needed on how best to address that capacity crunch.  As we know from our own research, investing in primary and community care services delivers the greatest economic return and we would want to see the detail on investment in primary, community and social care. 

We are concerned to see the party pledge to cover the cost of some of their pledges by cutting 5,500 NHS managers. We know that the NHS is comparatively undermanaged and that clinicians need to be freed up from admin tasks to undertake the delivery of care.  

Our members accept that regulation of senior leaders across health and social care will enhance confidence in accountability for patient safety across all areas of leadership, but any regulatory process must be realistic and clear in their objectives as to the ultimate purpose of regulation.   

The party’s proposal to invest more in mental health services is something we welcomed in our press response, as is its recommitment to rolling out mental health support teams and expanding coverage to 100 per cent of all schools and colleges including opening early support hubs for those aged 11-25 in every local community in England by 2030.   

On employment and health support, our ICS (Integrated Care Systems) members are involved in the WorkWell programme with a number selected as so-called vanguard sites to offer more intensive support.  

With more people living with more complex healthcare needs, we have been calling on the next government to deliver a strategy for national health that shifts the focus from simply treating illness to promoting health and wellbeing, reducing inequalities, and tackling the wider determinants of health. The commitment to the publication and implementation of the Major Conditions Strategy is welcome as a first step.  

It’s good to hear the Prime Minister himself pledge to provide the NHS a real-terms funding rise every year if he forms the next government as revenue funding remained largely flat this year. But the key question will be whether this commitment is dependent on the health service achieving productivity targets, and whether further measures will be introduced to help services to improve it. The capital investment set out in the manifesto is welcome, however the funding falls short of the extra £6.4 billion increase we are calling for to repair crumbling estates and replace out-of-date equipment. Our members have made it clear that more capital is the key requirement for boosting NHS productivity. 

More generally on funding, questions have been raised about how the year-on-year real-terms funding rise will be paid for given the pledge that by April 2027, the Conservatives would take another 2p off National Insurance.