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Which political party deserves the nursing vote?


Armed only with the shiny sword of truth, Beyond the Bedpan slashes through the political foliage to reveal the facts behind the main parties’ health policies.

As the general election campaign gathers pace, amidst the mud-slinging and media hysteria, one thing is guaranteed - every political party will bend over backwards to prove that they are the true “party of the NHS”.

Nurses will be prime political currency, with politicians of all persuasions promising to recruit more of you, treat you better and empower you to lead services. This will last right up until the final votes are counted, at which time you go back to being largely ignored, and offered sub-inflation pay rises.

Cynical? Us? Let’s see what the the health policy blurb on the main parties’ websites has to say.


From a buoyant Tony Blair to a downtrodden Gordon Brown, the Labour Party has been around long enough to be blamed, rightly or wrongly, for all of the NHS’ problems.

Not that you can tell from the health policy page of its website: “The NHS is the Labour Party’s greatest achievement. We created it, we saved it, we value it and we will always support it. The NHS remains Britain’s most cherished public service and the fairest system of healthcare in the world.”

Broadly speaking, the claims seem fair. It was a Labour government that created the NHS in 1948. And since its 1997 victory, Labour has poured an unprecendented amount of money into the NHS. On their website, the party lists the recruitment of 89,000 nurses since Tony Blair’s first election victory at the top of its list of health-related achievements.


The Conservatives, predictably, are quick to trot out the “party of the NHS” maxim, despite the lack of historic credibility. While they acknowledge Labour’s financial commitment to the health service, they argue that the money has been wasted on “a decade of top-down, bureaucratic mismanagement” - which they promise to fix.

Labour stand accused of “undermining the professionalism of NHS staff and skewing NHS priorities away from patient care, creating a culture where ticking boxes is more important than giving patients the treatment they need”.

NHS targets have been widely and fairly criticised, but Beyond the Bedpan is a little insulted at the presumption that a mere political party could make nurses abandon the fundamental principles of patient care.

The answer is “making nurses accountable to patients,” as well as “making sure there is no hiding place for failure”. We assume they don’t mean public stonings for incompetent nurses, but specifics are thin on the ground.

A Tory government would also “drive up standards by allowing people to choose the best providers and by encouraging hospitals to compete for patients”.

Also known as “competition” and “patient choice”. Sound familiar?

Liberal Democrats

The Lib Dems “believe access to personal care should be based on need not the ability to pay”. Which is good because, in theory at least, it already is.

They also come down heavy on central targets, promising to scrap them altogether and “guarantee that you get your treatment on time”.

An epic promise, and one that cynics might feel could only be made by a party with little hope of an outright election victory.

Finally, the party would put “doctors and nurses back in charge of their hospitals and wards”.

So there you have it. In the red corner, a ruling party that stands accused of wasting billions on a wasteful and target-obsessed NHS. In the yellow and blue corners, a series of grand promises that seem literally too good to be true.

Who gets your vote? Let us know in the comments box below this article.


Readers' comments (86)

  • Quite frankly I know who i'll be voting for and it wont be the airy fairy Concervatives or the Lib Dems I'll be sticking with the Labour party who believes in the NHS as other parties would have us all having to have private health care. It may not be a perfect nhs service but at least we'll still have one. I think that there should be less management especially ones with a non medical background who don't have a clue about the day to day running on the shop floor and more money invested in doctors and nurses who are.

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  • I shall not vote for any of them wasters, Ill be voting UKIP because I believe in the UK not Europe.

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  • as a scot who lived in the central belt of scotland during the thatcher years,i remember the tories sense of fair play. i also remember 4 years of trudging to the dss office to be looked down upon by sneering petty beurocrats who seemed to enjoy their work just a little too much,so even if i won the euromillions and had 50 million in the bank i still wouldn't vote for them. lib/dems.. pie in the sky, so that leaves labour and i'm of a minority who think GB is actually an honourable guy.

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  • I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly in health care delivery. I started my nursing career in the NHS in 1966 when wonderful new hospitals were being built and nurses were beginning to be noticed as more than handmaidens to doctors. Nursing experience in N. Ireland, England and Scotland highlighted that care was more or less the same wherever it was delivered. Always striving to be the very best.
    14 years nursing in the USA revealed the very good and the very bad. Good if you were rich, bad if you were poor. How horrific was the reality for a lot of people. What America is fighting for, we are privileged to have as a right.
    Having been exposed to all of the above, my vote is definitely for the Labour Party. As a swing voter and realising there is a lot at stake in this election, we must not let the fundamentals of patient care and service delivery be undermined by those, who at their very core, have a different world view.
    Flawed as it is, what human endeavour isn't, it is the best we have. I would fight for the basic principal of free health care at the point of delivery.
    Kind regards

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  • I havent a clue who to vote for They all treat nurses with contempt.I remember labour saying if they came into power there first job was to get rid of all the beurocarats in the NHS.Whats changed, nothing,well yes somethings changed as weve got more and more of them and noone on the shop floor doing the grafting.

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  • Labour Labour Labour, how can anyone vote for anyone else.
    The only possible opponent in this situation are the Tory's and I for one have not forgotten how they decimated the NHS in the 80's and early 90's by 1.putting in house services out to tender that drove down the quality of cleanliness. 2. Ken Clarke giving nurses a paycut 3 years in a row (inflation 3+% and pay rises 1%) which he says he's looking forward to doing again. 3. The Building Bridges document that meant anyone with common mental health problems were excluded from psychological therapies as 'the worried well' and 'not severe and enduring'. It has taken Labour to reverse that with the Increasing Access to Pyschological Therapies programme. Lets not have it all torn down again, vote Labour!

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  • I am due to qualify this summer, I hate this election capaign already anyway but talks of job losses make me feel really down as searching for a suitable job is already difficult without having to pick the political party that will offer me the best chance for my career!

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  • I'll be voting Labour and I can't wait to get to that polling station to put that cross in that box, the Tories don't deserve to have power over the NHS - they will destroy it!

    the reasons why I will be voting Labour include the fact that I have a well paid Nursing job waiting for me when I finish the coursein three weeks time that they have paid for me to complete. as well as their excellent 1 week promise for those suspected of having cancer and everything else they have done to make the NHS stronger and better than it was under the Tories.
    I work in Derby where we have a shiny new NHS hospital thanks to the Labour Governments investments in the NHS and policies on getting us better hospitals and more staff in them.
    * Now I am not saying that they have got everything right but then who has. We all make mistakes, the biggest mistake we as Nurses can make is to give the NHS to the Tory Party! we have the power to protect the NHS so lets do that.

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  • I am for LABOUR! the devil you know is better than the angel you do not know. We are workers. Labour government is for the workers.

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    a masterpiece from nick - who also plans to cut the 8 million public sector to 4 million, privatise health and education

    14.2 There are rafts and rafts of regulations that drive a wedge between employers
    and employees, such as equal pay, maternity rights, working time and the national
    minimum wage. All of these result in lower employment and higher costs to
    14.3 UKIP will look to scrap the bulk of these. Full employment can only be
    achieved by allowing the economy to grow, reducing the regulatory burden; reducing
    taxes on employment (in particular Employer’s National Insurance) and reducing the
    means-testing which leads to very high effective marginal tax-rates on the lower paid
    (covered in more detail on UKIP’s welfare policy paper) and significantly reducing
    the number of taxpayer-funded make-work jobs in the public sector.

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