Queen's speech failed to recognise NHS crisis, warns BMA

The government has been accused of sticking its head in the sand over the NHS crisis after 'ducking the big issues' in Wednesday's Queen's speech.

Parliament (Photo: Ian Bottle)
Parliament (Photo: Ian Bottle)

The Queen set out the government’s legislative programme for the next two years. Many of the proposals in the Conservative Party manifesto have been left out with the minority government still in talks with the far-right DUP to agree confidence and supply support.

The only new health legislation promised is a draft patient safety bill to establish a Health Service Safety Investigation Body ‘to help improve patient safety in the NHS and instil greater public confidence in the provision of healthcare services in England’.

The government will also seek to ‘reform mental health legislation’. The Tory manifesto had promised ‘the first new mental health bill for 30 years’.

The government also recommitted itself to a consultation on improving social care.

NHS funding

Doctors’ leaders said the government had chosen to provide less funding than the NHS needs.

BMA chair Dr Mark Porter said: ‘There is a crisis unfolding in our NHS and there was simply no acknowledgement of this today. Services are at breaking point, yet the government has chosen to stick its head in the sand, ducking the big issues undermining the delivery of care.

‘Doctors prioritise patient safety, but the government’s choice to provide less funding than the health service needs is compromising safe staffing levels.’

The Tories promised during the election campaign a minimum £8bn extra funding for the NHS over the parliament - a figure the Nuffield Trust said would bring total spending in 2022/23 to £131.7bn. Health spending would fall as a share of GDP to 7.0% compared with 7.3% today and 6.9% on previous spending plans.

The Tories pledged £10bn capital funding to back proposals in the Naylor report on NHS infrastructure, including upgrading primary care facilities.

GP workforce

Londonwide LMCs medical director Dr Elliott Singer said: ‘The Queen’s speech offers nothing new to address the state of emergency caused by workforce shortages, bureaucracy and squeezed funding in general practice, at a time when patients are increasingly facing extended waiting times, rushed GPs and withdrawn services. Nor does it address the crisis in social care funding which has a massive impact on the whole healthcare system and some of the most vulnerable in society.

‘In London 42% of practices have a GP or practice nurse vacancy, while 45% of practices have a GP who was planning to retire in the next three years. At the same time the capital has an incredibly diverse population, growing in size and with increasingly complex health needs.

'The government needs to revisit the "rescue package" for general practice in order to address the challenges we face. This promised support has instead become a bureaucratic exercise in filling out forms to chase small pots of money rather than the transformative prescription that was promised.’

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