The Conservatives’ manifesto pledges on health

“We will back the NHS. We will increase health spending every year. We will give patients more choice and free health professionals from the tangle of politically-motivated targets that get in the way of providing the best care. We will give patients better access to the treatments, services and information that improve and extend lives, boost the nation’s health, and reform social care.

More than three years ago, David Cameron spelled out his priorities in three letters - NHS.

Since then, we have consistently fought to protect the values the NHS stands for and have campaigned to defend the NHS from Labour’s cuts and reorganisations. As the party of the NHS, we will never change the idea at its heart – that healthcare in this country is free at the point of use and available to everyone based on need, not ability to pay.

We have a reform plan to make the changes the NHS needs. We will decentralise power, so that patients have a real choice. We will make doctors and nurses accountable to patients, not to endless layers of bureaucracy and management. We can’t go on with an NHS that puts targets before patients.

We will make the performance of the NHS totally transparent by publishing information about the kind of results that healthcare providers are achieving, so there is no hiding place for failure. We will increase access to vital drugs and services, and create a greater focus on preventing people getting ill in the first place. This is how we will achieve ourambition for the NHS to deliver some of the best healthcare in the world.

We are the party of the NHS today because we not only back the values of the NHS, we back its funding and have a vision for its future.

Give patients more choice

We understand the pressures the NHS faces, so we will increase health spending in real terms every year. But on its own this will not be enough to deliver the rising standards of care that people expect. We need to allow patients to choose the best care available, giving healthcare providers the incentives they need to drive up quality.

So we will give every patient the power to choose any healthcare provider that meets NHS standards, within NHS prices. This includes independent, voluntary and community sector providers. We will make patients’ choices meaningful by:

  • putting patients - in charge of making decisions about their care, including control of their health records;
  • spreading the use of the NHS tariff, so funding follows patients’ choices; and,
  • making sure good performance is rewarded by implementing a payment by results system, improving quality.

We will publish detailed data about the performance of healthcare providers online, so everyone will know who is providing a good service and who is falling behind, and we will measure our success on the health results that really matter - such as improving cancer and stroke survival rates or reducing hospital infections.

Patients will be able to rate hospitals and doctors according to the quality of care they received. We will give the public a strong and independent voice through HealthWatch, a statutory body with the power to investigate and support complaints.

We will strengthen the power of GPs as patients’ expert guides through the health system by:

  • giving them the power to hold patients’ budgets and commission care on their behalf;
  • linking their pay to the quality of their results; and,
  • putting them in charge of commissioning local health services.

Trust healthcare professionals

Doctors and nurses need to be able to use their professional judgement about what is right for patients, instead of being forced to follow bureaucratic processes that often put lives at risk. That is why we will scrap the politically-motivated targets that have no clinical justification. We will set NHS providers free to innovate by ensuring that they become autonomous Foundation Trusts.

We will make sure that funding decisions are made on the basis of need, and commissioning decisions according to evidence-based quality standards, by creating an independent NHS board to allocate resources and provide commissioning guidelines. We will ensure that NHS staff are protected if they raise concerns about patient safety.

NHS staff will be properly accountable to patients for their performance, removing the need for expensive layers of bureaucracy to oversee the NHS. As a result, we will be able to cut the cost of NHS administration by a third and transfer resources to support doctors and nurses on the frontline.

Increase access to vital drugs and services

People want an NHS that is easy to access at any time of day or night. We will commission a 24/7 urgent care service in every area of England, including GP out of hours services, and ensure that every patient can access a GP in their area between 8am and 8pm, seven days a week. We will introduce a single number for every kind of urgent care - to run in parallel with the emergency number 999.

We will stop the forced closure of A&E and maternity wards, so that people have better access to local services, and give mothers a real choice over where to have their baby, with NHS funding following their decisions. We will create local ‘maternity networks’ to ensure that mothers can safely access the right care, in theright place, at the right time.

When patients are forced to go to hospital, they expect the highest standards of cleanliness.

But infections like MRSA now kill more than three times as many people as are killed on the roads each year. We will increase the number of single rooms in hospitals, as resources allow, helping the battle against infection and providing safety and privacy. As a result, we will end the scandal of mixed-sex accommodation - which Labour have failed to do. And we will not pay hospitals in full when a patient is left with an avoidable infection.

NHS patients rightly expect to be among the first in the world to access effective treatments, but under Labour they are among the last.

We want more people to access the drugs and treatments that would prolong or improve their lives by reforming the way drug companies are paid for NHS medicines. Using money saved by the NHS through our pledge to stop Labour’s jobs tax, we will create a Cancer Drug Fund to enable patients to access the cancer drugs their doctors think will help them.

To help the fight against cancer further, we will:

  • give thousands more - people - especially young people - access to effective drugs to treat rare cancers by changing the way these drugs are commissioned;
  • encourage clinical trials of innovative techniques to diagnose and treat cancer; and,
  • support the roll out of screening programmes for common cancers.

Under Labour, fewer people are able to see an NHS dentist. So we will introduce a new dentistry contract that will focus on achieving good dental health, not simply the number of treatments achieved. This will tie newly-qualified dentists into the NHS for five years and allow dentists to fine people who consistently miss appointments. These changes will allow us to give one million more people access to an NHS dentist and give every five year old a dental check-up.

Take control of your care

Where possible we want to devolve control over health budgets to the lowest possible level, so people have more control over their health needs. For people with a chronic illness or a long-term condition, we will provide access to a single budget that combines their health and social care funding, which they can tailor to their own needs.

The UK’s six million carers play an indispensable role in looking after friends or family members who need support. Not only do they provide help to some of the most vulnerable people in society, the unpaid work they do contributes £87 billion worth of value a year - sometimes at the cost of carers’ finances and even their health. We will support carers, and those they look after, by providing direct payments to help with care needs and by improving access to respite care.

We will provide £10 million a year beyond 2011 to support children’s hospices in their vital work. And so that proper support for the most sick children and adults can continue in the setting of their choice, we will introduce a new per-patient funding system for all hospices and other providers of palliative care.

We reject Labour’s plans for a compulsory ‘death tax’ on everyone to pay for social care, regardless of their needs. We want to create a system which is based on choice and which rewards the hundreds of thousands of people who care for an elderly relative full-time. So we will allow anyone to protect their home from being sold to fund residential care costs by paying a one-off insurance premium that is entirely voluntary. Independent experts suggest this should cost around £8,000. We will support older people to live independently at home and have access to the personal care they need. We will work to design a system where people can top up their premium - also voluntarily - to cover the costs of receiving care in their own home.

A healthier nation

Lifestyle-linked health problems like obesity and smoking, an ageing population, and the spread of infectious diseases are leading to soaring costs for the NHS. At the same time, the difference in male life expectancy between the richest and poorest areas in our country is now greater than during Victorian times.

We will turn the Department of Health into a Department for Public Health so that the promotion of good health and prevention of illness get the attention they need. We will provide separate public health funding to local communities, which will be accountable for - and paid according to - how successful they are in improving their residents’ health. In addition, we will:

  • introduce a health premium - weighting public health funding towards the poorest areas with the worst health outcomes;
  • enable welfare-to-work providers and employers to purchase services from Mental Health Trusts; and,
  • increase access to effective ‘talking’ therapies.