The Royal College of Nursing has joined a coalition of 21 organisations calling on political parties to be open about their plans for the NHS ahead of next year’s general election.
The 21 groups backing the “2015 Challenge Manifesto” also include the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, Macmillan Cancer Support, the NHS Confederation and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services.
They are urging politicians to set out and debate their plans before the general election in May 2015 to ensure the next government has a clear mandate for service change.
The coalition has also published 15 “asks” they want the main political parties to sign up to, including a commitment not to launch another top down reorganisation of the NHS.
Staff should be valued and supported to move to more seven day working, the document says, while service change in the NHS should be supported by a one off investment of £4 billion.
Tom Sandford, director of RCN England, said: “The manifesto makes clear that the future of the NHS will depend upon better training and development for staff, enabling them to provide the best possible patient care.
“Health care staff need to deliver personalised care to patients in increasingly varied settings and must have development programmes which support them to do this. This will provide long-term savings and improve patient care.
“This manifesto shows that these challenges can be overcome, but it will take political will and brave decisions. The politicians’ silence on the future of the health service must end now.”
Speaking to Nursing Times’ sister publication HSJ, NHS Confederation chief executive Rob Webster accused both government ministers and their Labour counterparts of a “conspiracy of silence” over the NHS so far in the run up to the 2015 general election.
He told HSJ that whichever party clinched victory in May needed to “have a mandate for the changes ahead”.
“We want a debate about the future of the NHS before the election,” he said. “I cannot think of a time when 21 organisations representing nurses, managers, patients, local government and national charities have come together like this and I think politicians have a duty to listen.
“We expect party conferences to have these debates and party conferences to reflect these debates.
The move comes after a Liberal Democrat “pre-manifesto” document published last week said the party would “guarantee the NHS budget will rise by at least the rate of inflation” in “every year” of the next Parliament, while also commissioning “a fundamental review of NHS and social care finances in 2015, before the next spending review, in order to assess the pressures on NHS budgets and the scope for efficiencies”.