D-Day for Rishi as Conservatives seek manifesto momentum

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By Toby Hannam, Senior Director, Incisive Health

Seeking to put a difficult (to say the least) week behind him, Rishi Sunak today launched the Conservative Party manifesto at Silverstone with a series of new pledges on tax cuts, help for first time buyers and further action on immigration. The metaphors are endless. The Prime Minister will be hoping that the image of a fast start – rather than the wheels coming off – is the one that sticks with voters.
This is a manifesto aimed at shoring up the Conservative Party’s base, stopping a further erosion of support to Reform, rather than appealing to the electoral centre ground. This feels very different from 2019, when the Conservatives placed the NHS front and centre of its electoral offer. It is striking that health is not one of the five pillars of “Rishi Sunak’s Clear Plan” set out on the Conservative Party homepage (they are, in case you were wondering, security, national insurance, pensions, childcare and skills & opportunities).
That said, there are still important health policy commitments, including increasing NHS spending above inflation every year, recruiting 92,000 more nurses and 28,000 more doctors, driving up productivity and moving care closer to people’s homes through expanding Pharmacy First (to free up 20 million GP appointments by the end of the next parliament), as well as building new GP surgeries and Community Diagnostic Centres. The non-workforce sections of this will apparently cost £1 billion a year by 2029/30 and would be paid for by cutting NHS managers to pre-pandemic levels (£550 million) and halving management consultancy across government (£640 million). There is also (another) cull of quangos promised.
The Plan reiterates a number of previous commitments, including publication of a Major Conditions Strategy, implementation of the Rare Diseases Action Plan, prioritisation of women’s health and implementing a new MedTech pathway (including for AI). Further action on mental health and maternity is also promised, as well as a commitment to “remove bureaucratic obstacles to the use of new medicines, such as the NHS Budget Impact Test and [alignment of] NHS England’s cost-effectiveness thresholds for new medicines indications with those used by NICE”.
Those hoping for a clear plan and bold action on social care may be disappointed, with little beyond the already committed cap on social care costs from October 2025.
With Keir Starmer leading on the NHS by a country mile, the Conservatives are seeking to focus on other issues to bolster sagging poll ratings, whilst demonstrating to voters that they still have a plan for the NHS. 
Rishi Sunak will hope that the launch of his manifesto marks a turning point for the Conservatives’ campaign, giving him new momentum as we enter the second half of the campaign. If the manifesto fails to turn the tide, then it is highly unlikely that he’ll ever have the opportunity to take action on the pledges he has made today.

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If you have any questions for the team, or would like advice or support, please do get in touch via info@incisivehealth.com.