The King’s Fund has assessed the Conservatives’, Labour’s and the Liberal Democrats’ manifesto commitments to population health, and have concluded that the exercise was like ‘looking for needles in haystacks’.
The manifestos’ discussions of the inequalities that exist in health attracted criticism. While the Conservatives recognise, “If you are born poor, you will die on average nine years earlier than others,” the King’s Fund criticised them, along with Labour and the Liberal Democrats, for offering little in the way of explicit commitments to tackle this, observing that seemingly the parties, “have either given up on explicit policies that tackle social inequalities in health, or assume that the wider polices in their manifestos will automatically tackle them.”
They were more positive about some of the parties’ wider policy commitments that would affect health, in areas including housing, access to education and work. They gave specific praise to the Liberal Democrats for being the most direct with their pledge to for a National Wellbeing Strategy that, “puts better health and wellbeing for all at the heart of government policy.” But the King’s Fund also congratulate all three parties for offering, “welcome commitments on housing, including on increasing the amount of social housing and on insulating homes.”
However, they were critical of what is not mentioned in the manifestos. They were disappointed Labour and the Liberal Democrats did not challenge the current Government’s plans to make local authorities self-fund all their public health work, and that Labour said nothing about reinstating the public health funding cuts or putting health at the heart of all government policies – a pledge they had made in 2015.
In their overall assessment the King’s Fund said: “while the Conservative manifesto is the sparsest of all in terms of commitments on public health, none of the manifestos stand up to scrutiny on inequalities in health, or have anything really meaningful to say on the role of the NHS in population health, such as strengthening accountability through STPs. Neither do they offer a compelling vision for leveraging the power of people and communities in creating health.”