The Liberal Democrats have unveiled their election manifesto, pledging to put nurses and other frontline staff in charge of wards or unit budgets, and allowing staff to establish employee trusts - giving them a say over how their service is run.
The manifesto also promised to cut “bureaucracy” and allow nurses to spend more time on patient care. It states: “We all know that too much precious NHS money is wasted on bureaucracy, and doctors and nurses spend too much time trying to meet government targets.”
Measures to be taken include “sharply reducing centralised targets and bureaucracy” and replacing them with entitlements.
The party says it has identified specific savings that would allow it to protect services such as cancer treatment, mental healthcare, maternity services, dementia care and preventive medicine.
This would involve halving the size of the Department of Health, abolishing “unnecessary quangos” such as Connecting for Health and cutting the budgets of the rest.
The party would also “seek to limit” the pay and bonuses of senior managers to ensure none earned more than the prime minister. Gordon Brown earns £194,250 a year, on top of perks including his Downing Street home.
If patients are not diagnosed and treated on time, the NHS will pay for private care.
The party has also promised a series of reforms aimed at improving patient safety. For example, hospitals would be “required” to be open and inform patients about mistakes.
It would be made illegal for primary care trusts - which would be directly elected and renamed local health boards - to allow doctors to work in the UK without passing “robust” language and competence tests.
Health boards would be given greater responsibility over time for revenue and resources, “to allow local people to fund local services which need extra money”.
Policies also include an independent commission to develop proposals for long term care of the elderly.
Tendering processes by commissioners would be improved to end “any current bias in favour of private providers”.
Tom Sandford, director of Royal College of Nursing England, said: “Nurses will welcome the pledge to tackle excessive drinking by supporting a ban on the sale of below-cost price alcohol. We are pleased that our manifesto call to protect the nation’s health by taking action on alcohol abuse has been recognised.
“The RCN is committed to working with whichever party wins the election to ensure patients receive the best care possible. High quality care depends on safe staffing levels, time to train, support for specialist nurses and sustained investment in services, staff and facilities. We will be examining the detail of this manifesto and what it will mean for nurses and the patients that they care for.”
Other NHS policies:
- Linking payments to health boards and GPs more directly to prevention measures.
- Extending best practice on improving hospital discharge, maximising the number of day case operations, reducing delays before operations, and where possible moving consultations into the community.
- Integrating health and social care to create a seamless service, ending bureaucratic barriers and saving money to allow people to stay in their homes for longer rather than going into hospital or long term residential care.
- Using the money from the “flawed” Personal Care At Home Bill to provide guaranteed respite care for the one million carers who work the longest hours.
- Prioritise dementia research within the health research and development budget.
- Improving access to counselling for people with mental health problems by continuing the rollout of cognitive and behavioural therapies.
- Reducing the ill health and crime caused by excessive drinking.
- Saving lives and reducing pressure on NHS budgets by cutting air pollution.
- Giving every patient the right to choose to register with the GP they want, without being restricted by where they live, and the right to access their GP by email.
- Ensuring that local GPs are directly involved in providing out of hours care.
- Reforming payments to GPs so that those who accept patients from areas with the worst health and deprivation scores receive an extra payment for each one they take.