Now that the top three UK political parties have laid bare their manifestos before next month’s general election, the NHS Confederation has responded with a call for stability for the health service and political honesty over the scale of the challenge.

By 2020, the black hole in NHS funding will have reached at least £30 billion, even more if social care is added into the equation. If we are to successfully fill this whole, the political parties “must be straight with the public about the huge scale of the savings and increases in productivity required over the next parliament,” said Rob Webster, the organisation’s chief executive.

While applauding manifesto pledges for bigger NHS budgets, he said the gap between resources and demand will only be closed if we go much further to “fundamentally change the way we provide care for millions of patients which itself will require funds for “double running” services and investment in estates, IT and innovation.”

Webster also slammed “arbitrary targets in manifestos for increasing specific sorts of staff”, instead calling on the next government to facilitate “sustainable long-term workforce planning, which meets the needs of local areas” and to back any promises with an “appropriate increase in funding”. 

And the Confederation warned of the potentially “disastrous impact” of centrally-driven reorganisation on local efforts to improve care, urging the incoming government to stick the principles set out in both the Five Year Forward View and by the 2015 Challenge partnership* instead.

*The 2015 Challenge partnership comprises 23 leading organisations from across health and care, including the NHS Confederation, Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, Local Government Association and Royal College of General Practitioners, which have set out 15 shared requests for both government and national bodies to create the conditions for local leaders to reshape care.