What Does the Queen's Speech Deliver for the NHS and Social Care?

Peter Russell

December 19, 2019

A commitment to fund the NHS in England by an extra £33.9bn each year by 2023-24 would be enshrined in law, the Government confirmed.

A guarantee for the multi-year funding, agreed earlier, was confirmed in the Queen's Speech – the second time that the Sovereign has outlined Conservative legislation this year.

Overdue proposals for "long term reform" of social care were promised, subject to "cross-party consensus". Ministers "would ensure the social care system provides everyone with the dignity and security they deserve," the Queen said, "and that no one who needs care has to sell their home to pay for it".

Health experts said that the spending pledge was below the long-term average in NHS spending.

They also urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to deliver on his promise to 'fix the social care crisis once and for all' by bringing forward meaningful proposals for reform.

Among other announcement's, the Queen's Speech said that ministers would take steps to boost the health service's workforce, amid concerns that Brexit, confirmed today as set for 31st January 2020, would jeopardise the number of EU health professionals working in the NHS.

A new visa would ensure that qualified doctors, nurses, and other health professionals would have fast-track entry to the UK.

The Government would also continue work to reform the Mental Health Act.

Other proposals included a promise to abolish hospital car parking charges "for those in greatest need", although parking fees have already been scrapped entirely in Wales and most of Scotland.

NHS 'At the Heart of Policy'

Matt Hancock, who kept his post as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care following the election, commented on Twitter: "The NHS was at the heart of today's Queen's Speech, delivering on the manifesto commitments we made to the British people."

'Not a Funding Bonanza'

Commenting on the Government's priorities, Richard Murray, chief executive of The King's Fund said: "Additional NHS investment is welcome and will help to start to stabilise NHS services, but it is not a funding bonanza: by historic standards the amount promised is, in real terms, below the long-term average in NHS spending, and it also doesn’t represent a comprehensive funding plan that includes workforce training, capital funding, or public health.

"The government must be honest with the public: as well as additional funding, a credible plan to increase the workforce is also urgently needed. Even then, it will take time to bring down waiting times and patients will unfortunately continue to wait longer to receive the care that they need."

The Royal College of GPs warned of the urgent need to solve problems with social care. Prof Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: "General practice, and the wider NHS, needs a robust social care system, so we welcome plans for a cross-party consultation, and the pledge to ensure people do not have to sell their homes to pay for care.

"The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has described general practice as the 'bedrock of the NHS and it is – we hope these words, and the Government's pledges, will be followed by the funding and resources necessary to deliver more GPs, more members of the practice team, and more support for frontline GPs, delivering care to more than a million patients every day."

Dr Jennifer Dixon, chief executive at the Health Foundation, said: "With growing numbers of people unable to access the care they need, there is no time to waste. Fundamental reform of social care should be the immediate priority – the government must now grasp the nettle."

The Royal College of Physicians said the Government's priority should be to fix staffing shortfalls across the entire health and social care system.

Prof Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians said: "The NHS workforce crisis is arguably the greatest issue facing our NHS today, so the government is right to use the Queen's Speech to focus on increasing the number of international staff we recruit.

"Any new visa system must however support the entire health and care system.

"Social care has for far too long been under-resourced and understaffed."

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