HSJ’s round-up following the surprise general election result

Conservatives left hanging

So, did you see that coming?

The snap election Theresa May called to secure a larger Conservative majority has instead led to a hung parliament, with an emboldened Labour Party and the humbled PM having to ask Northern Ireland’s 10 DUP MPs to help her form a government.

Not many people predicted that in the HSJ office sweepstake.

Notable results on election night in the health policy world were junior health ministers David Mowat and Nicola Blackwood losing their seats to Labour and Lib Dem candidates respectively. Meanwhile, cabinet office minister Ben Gummer – once tipped as a future health secretary – lost his seat by 831 votes.

Incumbent SoS Jeremy Hunt kept his Surrey South West seat with a slightly reduced majority, and the National Health Action Party’s Louise Irvine came (distant) second.

While there will surely be a lot more politics and punditry to come, we can already take an educated guess at what this unexpected state of affairs means for the NHS.

In his leader column, David Williams writes: “The election result has made a fool of Theresa May. But while expectations have been utterly confounded, we continue to have a just about viable Conservative government, with a programme resembling something like status quo for the health service.

“Status quo means the NHS remains underfunded, and the economy underpinning it is in a precarious position. This year was always going to be all about the money, and it will continue to be. With the opposition having made gains on a platform of protecting public services, the newly weakened government may be tempted to bung the NHS a bit more cash to make the issue go away for a couple of years.

“But the economic reality is unchanged – so whether more money can be found for the NHS will depend on a humbled, possibly fractious, Conservative Party’s enthusiasm for raising taxes or borrowing more.

“In the meantime, health leaders will continue trying to contain costs. These efforts will become increasingly controversial and hard for everyone to stomach as the squeeze gets tighter.”

A final thought on the “Brexit election” that hardly dealt with Brexit.

If Ms May was seeking an electoral mandate to pursue her Brexit vision, she has failed.

For the NHS, leaving the EU is bad in two ways: it makes EU staff already in the NHS uncertain about their right to live and work in the UK; and it threatens the health service’s ability to source staff from the EU in the long term by potentially restricting freedom of movement.

We could now dare to hope for a softer line on free movement, and a less catastrophic outcome for the NHS workforce.