BMA responds to Labour Party manifesto 

by BMA media team

BMA press release

Location: UK
Published: Thursday 13 June 2024
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Responding to the Labour Party’s General Election manifesto, Professor Philip Banfield, BMA council chair, said: 

“Like the BMA, Labour are under no illusion that the NHS has been stumbling from crisis to crisis for years, something which doctors, their colleagues and, crucially, patients, continue to bear the brunt of.  

“We welcome Labour’s commitment to bringing waiting times down – on the same day that we see the waiting list rise once again – but they need to be aware that delivering on this pledge will depend on supporting and investing in the workforce. We would all have to work out how the same burned out, demoralised and undervalued staff across the NHS and independent sector can be expected to work extra shifts to provide the thousands of extra appointments that have been promised. 

“With three groups of doctors still in dispute with the Government, Labour is right to say the Conservatives’ approach has failed and that a reset is required. We will approach talks with a new Government positively based on the shared recognition of the value of doctors, how this has been systematically eroded over the last 15 years and an agreement on how it can be restored.  

“Pledges to increase staff numbers necessarily depend on fixing pay and pensions in order to retain the skilled and expert staff who are already leaving the NHS. 

“Promises to train more doctors, including ‘thousands’ more in general practice, also need backing with positions throughout the training pathway, and jobs to go to once they qualify. We have a situation where newly-qualified GPs are left jobless because practices aren’t funded to, and therefore can’t afford to, take them on. The current situation where funding has been blocked from being used to employ doctors has to stop. 

“The focus on early intervention and shift of focus – and funding – to general practice - is a no-brainer. As Labour says: ‘Prevention will always be better, and cheaper, than a cure.’ This requires re-negotiating the existing GP contract, giving general practice the resources it needs and removing the absurd barriers to practices hiring GPs. 

“Likewise, policies aimed at improving the public’s health – including mental health – need to be coupled with investing in services and workforce if we’re to really help people, especially those who are already subject to such deep health inequalities. 

“Labour is keen to reference the founding principles of the NHS, a key part of which was around equality. Therefore, we’re happy to see the party pledge to commitments the BMA has long called for; a complete ban on conversion therapy that includes trans people, tangible support for disabled people in the workplace, tackling the unacceptable pay gaps based on gender, ethnicity and disability, and removing the barriers that women in particular face, all of which would benefit both the medical workforce and wider society.  

“Labour says it is the party of the NHS. If elected, this statement, and its commitment to the health of the UK, will be truly tested. If Labour wants to grow our economy, its immediate priority must be to fix the health service and fix the health of our nation. Only by valuing, listening and working with doctors will this be possible.” 

 

Dr Vishal Sharma, BMA pensions committee chair, said: 

“It’s good to see Labour have dropped their plans to reintroduce the lifetime allowance on pensions as part of this manifesto. Such a move, with no guarantees about how public sector workers would be protected, could have caused senior doctors to retire early at the very time when we need their expertise most. However, whilst Labour has not mentioned a reintroduction, that is not the same as making a commitment that it will not do so in the future. Doctors will still want explicit reassurance that, if elected, Labour won’t reintroduce it at a later time to provide them with the confidence to remain in the workforce in the long-term. It’s also vital that the remaining pension taxation barriers preventing doctors from taking on additional work are also removed.” 

Ends 

 

 

 

Notes to editors

 

The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.