Tory leadership race 2022: what are Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak’s policies and plans for healthcare and the NHS?

The NHS and social care are both currently facing huge backlogs

The Tory leadership contest is drawing to a close, with the next Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative party to be decided on 5 September.

Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss have laid down proposed plans on a number of issues during their bids to be the next PM, including how to tackle the cost of living crisis and the levelling up agenda.

Not all that much has been said from Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss about how to tackle problems with NHS and social care

But what have they said about future plans for the NHS and social care?

Here’s what you need to know.

What have Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss said about the NHS?

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Although plenty has been said from both sides about how the cost of living crisis would be handled and plans for levelling up, not all that much has been said about how to tackle problems with NHS and social care, including increasing treatment waiting times and ambulance delays.

However, Rishi Sunak recently stirred a debate when he proposed that those who miss GP appointments should be charged a fee of £10 in the aim to “crack down on those abusing the NHS”.

Many in the healthcare system strongly opposed Sunak’s GP charging idea as most of those who miss appointments are among the poorest, and from minority ethnic backgrounds and several have complex needs.

The British Medical Association said finding patients would be counterproductive because it would deter them from re-booking, and at a time when the cost of living crisis means some people this winter will face a choice between heating and eating, £10 fines could have a big impact.

The Royal College of GPs pointed out that the plan “would fundamentally change the principle that the NHS is free at the point of use” and would also add “another layer of bureaucracy to a GP service already drowning in red tape”.

Although Truss’s team has criticised Sunak’s GP fines plan, in 2009 she co-authored a think tank document that called for the introduction of NHS charges for everyone, not just for those who missed bookings.

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The ‘Back to Black’ document said that charges “would lead to a reduction in demand, which would, in turn save the NHS the costs of providing unnecessary service”.

During the leadership contest, Liz Truss has also pledged to divert billions of pounds for social care from the NHS to councils.

She said the £13billion a year earmarked for the NHS from the recent National Insurance rise would instead be diverted to local authorities to pay for older people’s care as soon as possible.

“I would spend that money in social care. Quite a lot has gone to the NHS. I would give it to local authorities. We have people in beds in the NHS who would be better off in social care. So put that money into social care,” Truss said.

“We put the extra £13bn in and what people who work in the NHS tell me is the problem is the number of layers in the organisation they have to go through to get things done, the lack of local decision-making. That’s what people are telling me is the problem, rather than a lack of funding.”

However, experts have said this would be “robbing Peter to pay Paul” if she diverted £13bn of funding for the NHS to deal with a Covid backlog in social care.

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How have they voted on health matters in the past?

According to TheyWorkForYou, Ms Truss has almost always voted for reforming the NHS so GPs buy services on behalf of their patients.

In October 2019, she voted to continue to empower GPs to commission services, retain a strong Care Quality Commission, to retain Healthwatch England, and not to reverse a decision to seek to cut admin costs for example by abolishing Primary Care Trusts.

Sunak also voted in agreement with the above points in October 2019.