Analysis: The Conservative manifesto on health and welfare

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In the second part of a series on the major political parties' manifestos, Richard Walsh analyses the Conservative's health and welfare plans - and what this means for insurance.

After analysis of the Labour manifesto, it's time for the Conservative manifesto. Let's start with welfare reform. As expected they will continue to roll out universal credit (UC).

As this comes on stream it will have implications for income protection (IP) sold to individuals as we are essentially moving the whole welfare system for the working age population from a series of benefits, some means and some not, to a single means tested benefit.

IP will be deducted from this on a £ for £ basis. This raises issues for advisors as it may be that some clients will be no better off financially with IP.

On the other hand the squeeze on the amount of money people receive will continue. They will freeze working age benefits for two years from April 2016, with exemptions for disability, maternity and sickness benefits; they will lower benefit cap from £26,000 to £23,000 and they will keep the bedroom tax.

There is no mention of bringing child benefit into UC but they leave the door open for further cuts as they will keep a check on the growth of welfare spending, setting an overall welfare cap for the next five years.

The Conservatives will also bring in a populist plan to support people suffering from drug or alcohol addiction, or obesity, to get back into work.

If they refuse a recommended treatment, the Party plans to reduce their benefits. So the amount the State will pay to many is going down - making IP and unemployment insurance a stronger proposition.

NHS

Moving to the NHS, there are a lot of statistics about what they have achieved so far. Any government seeking a second term would do this. They also make frequent mention of the NHS five year forward view.

Before the 1997 election civil servants produced "NHS - a service with ambitions". On the change of government it disappeared without trace.

The forward view is an excellent document but it has now become intimately linked with the Conservatives. In a way this is a shame as it will have the same fate if the Conservatives do not get in.

Not surprisingly given the [former health secretary] Andrew Lansley experience, there are no grand plans for radical reform.

What we see instead are some headline areas which will be underpinned by letting NHS England get on with its job of managing the NHS.

Although the large pilot of health and social care integration in Manchester gets a specific mention. Subject to how that goes it may be rolled out across England.

They plan to deliver a GP system that will enable patients to have a face to face consultation 7 days a week from 8am-8pm by 2020.

As with the Labour plans this will involve recruiting a lot more doctors. It takes more than 5 years to train a GP and GPs are independent contractors who operate through a centrally set contract.

There will be negotiations with the BMA and you can bet they will want more money.

They also want to bring back access to a named GP, which will be popular with people who have chronic conditions.

Rather bizarrely they guarantee same-day GP appointments for all over 75 who need it.

Most over 75s are in regular contact with their GP and if they suffer from an acute episode they would be seen straight away anyway. In terms of priority areas they share with Labour a commitment to improve outcomes through investment in cancer and mental health services.

It is good to see this cross-party consensus. They also have some other priorities.

One of them is, David Cameron's "Challenge on Dementia 2020" - making sure that everyone diagnosed with the condition gets a care plan to support them and their family.

Missing is the controversial proposal to get GPs to give memory checks to the elderly. It looks as if that one has been quietly dropped.

Richard Walsh is a fellow of SAMI Consulting 

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