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Improve our response to certain disease groups

Last updated: 05:31pm 4 May 2019

…and also improve our response to historically underfunded and poorly understood disease groups.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.69

Our verdict

The manifesto describes responding to “historically underfunded and poorly understood disease groups”. The mechanisms for tackling those problems are investment (to tackle underfunding), and research (to tackle poor understanding). Given that medical research always requires funding, it is arguable that fulfilling this pledge ultimately comes down to investment, both in current health service provision and in ongoing research.

Under this government, there has been progress made on prioritising disease research, evident in the publication of the Life Sciences Sector Deal in December 2017, which was updated in December 2018. Also, the updated UK Strategy for Rare Diseases implementation plan, published in February 2018, puts a particular emphasis on “poorly understood disease groups”.

Looking at “historically underfunded” disease groups, the British Medical Association says “mental health problems are the single largest source of burden of disease in the UK” and that too often sufferers “have received little or no support”.

Following an independent review, the government has committed to reforming the Mental Health Act with a view to improving mental health care.

In spite of these developments, it’s important to note concerns around government spending on public health, which the King’s Fund say is “far below the long-term average increases in health spending…since the NHS was established and [below] the rate of increase needed based on projections by the Office of Budget Responsibility”.

With strategic developments and legislative plans under way, this pledge is ‘in progress’, but to move it to ‘done’ those elements will need to be matched by significantly increased investment levels. We’ll be monitoring the trends, so follow this policy for updates.

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