Policy 2024: What do the main parties say they will do about the pressures facing the NHS?

ITV News' Health Correspondent Rebecca Barry breaks down the challenges our next Prime Minister will come up against after the General Election - and what solutions political parties have put forward.

Public satisfaction with the NHS has fallen to the lowest level ever recorded, so whichever party wins this election faces some huge challenges.

Health is a devolved issue in the four nations of the UK. We’re focusing on England because Westminster has responsibility for the NHS there.

First up: The waiting list.

Millions of people are waiting for non-urgent operations, things like knee replacements and cataract surgery.

Latest NHS England data shows the backlog reached 7.5 million at the end of March 2024.

So what are the parties promising to do about it?

Cutting NHS waiting lists was one of Rishi Sunak's top five priorities.

While the backlog has fallen by 200,000 since September, the waiting list remains higher now than when the Prime Minister first made that pledge.

Labour has promised to clear it within five years, with more evening and weekend appointments and using the private sector - paid for by a crack-down on tax avoiders.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats say they’d invest in public health and prevention, so fewer people get ill and need treatment in the first place.

Another major issue: Staff shortages, which are stretching resources and affecting morale.

The NHS in England has more than 100,000 un-filled jobs, that’s almost 7% of the workforce.

While the Royal College of Nursing says almost half of its members are currently planning or considering quitting.

The Conservatives have delivered on their 2019 manifesto pledge to hire 50-thousand more nurses. But unions say that’s still not enough to meet demand.

Labour has promised to create 7,500 more medical school places and 10,000 more nursing and midwifery clinical placements a year.

While Reform UK say to retain workers they’d cut taxes for frontline NHS staff and write-off student fees for trainee doctors and nurses.

Finally, there’s the struggle to get a GP or dentist appointment.

NHS data shows that in April 2024 more than three million people in England had to wait over three weeks to see their GP.

Meanwhile there’s a crisis in NHS dentistry, with tooth decay the number one reason for hospital admissions for young children.

The Conservatives says they’ll give dentists cash incentives to take on NHS patients, build 100 new GP surgeries in England and expand the use of pharmacies.

Labour promises to end the 8am scramble for appointments by using the NHS App. And say they’ll deliver 700,000 extra dentistry appointments a year.

While the Green Party say they would ensure everyone can see an NHS doctor or dentist by raising money through a “fairer” tax system.

And on top of all that, there’s the ongoing industrial action to sort out.

Junior doctors are due to walk-out just days before the election and now even GPs now threatening to take action.

It is a daunting to-do list.

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