Whether Labour gets back in or the Conservatives pull off the political shock of the century – it was still not clear as Occupational Health went to press – promises made on health will be a priority for the incoming government.
All three parties put the health of the nation centre-stage during the general election campaign, particularly the issues of healthy living, healthier lifestyles, more patient choice and cleaner hospitals.
Labour pledged to move to a “personalised healthcare system”, reducing waits from 18 weeks from referral to treatment. It also promised to expand primary care services, adding more walk-in centres for commuters and on the high street.
The party pledged to cut deaths from coronary heart disease and strokes by 40% (from 1997’s figure) by 2010 and cancer deaths by 20%.
It reiterated its intention to ban smoking in all enclosed public places and workplaces, apart from licensed premises, and to expand NHS smoking cessation services.
For the Conservatives the focus was cleaner hospitals and reducing the spread of MRSA. It also promised to decentralise power and give more say to GPs and patients.
It said it would introduce health checks on immigrants “to curb the spread of disease such as tuberculosis and to protect access to our NHS”.
People planning to stay in the UK for more than 12 months from outside the European Union would be required to undergo a full medical check-up, the Conservatives added.
The Liberal Democrats said they would ban smoking in all enclosed public spaces, the encouragement of regular health ‘MoTs’ and wider access to screening, blood pressure and cholesterol tests. “If the causes of ill-health aren’t tackled, the NHS of the future won’t be able to cope,” the party said.