Trade unions representing nurses and midwives have warned that policy pledges on the NHS and social care must be pushed up the general election agenda, and not be overshadowed by Brexit.
Prime minister Theresa May announced today that the country would be asked to go to the polls on 8 June, with plans announced for a snap general election in around six week’s time.
“We will make sure that NHS and social care are on the ballot paper”
The move marks a major reversal in previous indications from the prime minister that she would not seek a general election prior to 2020, largely as a result of disrupting negotiations over Brexit.
But in her announcement this morning, she said the change in date was to “remove the risk of uncertainty and instability”, which had emerged in the wake of the European Union referendum.
There will be a vote in the Commons on Wednesday to approve the election plan, with Ms May needing two thirds of MPs to vote in favour to bring forward the next scheduled election date.
However, health unions and other stakeholders were quick to highlight that the NHS and social care should be a key election issue as well as Europe, calling for pledges on staffing and funding.
“This election must be about the future of our public services and the spending cuts unleashed”
Other than such commitments, it is unlikely that any in the sector will welcome too many policies focused on bringing more change to under-pressure services already undergoing reforms.
Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “Brexit is not the only issue the country faces – we will make sure that NHS and social care are on the ballot paper this June.
“The RCN will challenge all parties to give health and care services the funding and staff they need for safe patient care,” she said.
“We will be consulting our members on the RCN’s manifesto and the commitments they want to see from election candidates,” she added.
The Royal College of Midwives also called for promise to invest in NHS in response to the general election announcement.
Jon Skewes, RCM director for policy, employment relations and communications, said: “We want to see the next government invest in the NHS, invest in maternity services and invest in the welfare and pay of NHS staff so that they can provide safe and high quality services for the people they care for.”
Meanwhile, Unison said the coming general election must be about the “future of our public services”.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “As the UK prepares to leave the EU, this election must be about the future of our public services and the spending cuts unleashed over the past seven years.
“The government cannot and must not be given a renewed mandate for further funding squeezes and ending cherished rights at work,” he said.
More reaction and analysis to follow…