HSJ’s daily digest of Tuesday’s significant developments for healthcare leaders

High profile manifesto commitments to increase NHS funding have had no apparent impact on which political party voters trust to find the most money for the NHS.

The final instalment of HSJ and FTI Consulting’s pre-election opinion poll has revealed that despite both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats committing to an £8bn real terms increase in health spending over the next parliament, Labour is still expected to spend more on the NHS. Labour has only promised a £2.5bn increase in the next two years, but has not ruled out further increases.

A representative sample of 2,000 voters was asked of the main parties they believed would give the NHS the most money of the course of the next Parliament, and which party they trusted to give the NHS enough funding to protect its future.

On both measures around 40 per cent of voters believed Labour would give the NHS extra money, compared with 29 per cent for the Conservatives.

HSJ’s David Williams reports that the findings suggest “voters have made up their minds about which party they trust with the service, and have either not heard campaign pledges on NHS finance, or do not believe them”.

The poll also found that the NHS remains a key deciding factor for voters, but its importance is declining as May 7 approaches, and that Labour leader Ed Miliband’s personal rating on the NHS has steadily increased over the past year.

But while spending pledges may not have affected voter perceptions, the high profile of health policy in this election campaign will have significant implications for the health service.

In our Leader column, editor Alastair McLellan writes that the election’s focus on the NHS will mean the public will expect an improvement in performance post-election, which will require a health secretary who is more hands-on “than even Mr Hunt has been”.

Yesterday also saw tributes paid to Professor Aidan Halligan, the NHS’s first ever director of clinical governance and a former deputy chief medical officer, who died suddenly aged 57.

Health Policy Insight Editor Andy Cowper wrote: “As well as his considerable professional distinction, Aidan was an outstanding human being. He reminded me greatly of the late Professor Bob Sang, firstly for his relentless focus on patients and their care - and secondly for the very slow progress you could ever make when walking in his company at a healthcare event or conference.

“Aidan was, quite simply, loved by a lot of people, who wanted to talk to him, and he had time for them all. He had a rare gift of personal warmth, that ignited a reciprocal feeling in others.”