An analysis of the Conservative Draft Manifesto 2010.
"We will reform NHS Direct and introduce a single number for every kind of urgent care to run in parallel with the emergency number 999. We will give people access to a doctor or nurse when the local family doctor's surgery isn't open, and we will stop the forced closure of A&E wards."
Much of this already happens. The promised new phone numbers are not a great innovation, and it is difficult to understand how it will work. Are patients expected to perform some kind of self diagnosis before calling for help? That is what the NHS Direct operators are for.
There are already provisions for out-of-hours doctors, so again, it is unclear what the Conservatives plan. The 2009 health policy document suggest that the changes they propose are to make PCTs and GPs jointly responsible for commissioning out-of-hours service (currently, this is a responsibility of the PCT). This is not a huge policy shift, and it is not clear what benefits it will give.
The final point is interesting "we will stop the forced closure of A&E wards". This is more emotive language from the Conservative policy writing team. Rather than telling us what they will do, they use emotive language to denigrate what Labour is doing. Read that phrase and try not to think that Labour are closing all A&E departments. The good news is that this is not the case, and it is not the Department of Health determining whether the few A&E departments under threat should close: those decisions are being taken locally. Furthermore, this is yet another example of the Conservatives indicating that they will interfere politically in the NHS, when they say that they want to make health decisions local. This plan is clearly an example of where the Conservatives plan more centralisation of power.
"we will introduce local ' maternity networks' to ensure that mothers can safely access the right care, in the right place, at the right time."
The Royal College of Midwives state that this is already happening, they say that "the Government is committed to midwifery- led services, to women having choice, to user-involvement and to reducing unnecessary interventions and health inequalities". Further, the RCM say "It, therefore, is difficult to see exactly what is different in the Conservative Party's promise for maternity services".
This is yet another policy from the Conservatives that effectively says "we will continue to do what the Labour government is already doing".