E-scooters at a crossroads
E-scooters at a crossroads

Navigating party priorities: health policy in the political landscape

Words by:
Account Director
October 23, 2023

With Party Conference Season now behind us, we have (some) more clarity on the health priorities of the two major political parties. Now that both the Labour and Conservatives have established their positions, what does this mean for organisations seeking to engage on the commitments made by both sides, as competing priorities divide attention?

In this analysis we show how healthcare organisations can amplify their policy objectives with Government and the Opposition through shared ambitions, as Westminster gears up for a general election.

Prevention is the name of the game

Your policy positions need to align to the prevention agenda.

While political championing of prevention is not new, one of the clear shifts for both parties this year was the central focus on public health and prevention.

For the Conservative Party this is a significant change in direction, fronted by the smoking ban announcement made by Rishi Sunak on the final day of conference; arguably, what could be one of the most significant public health interventions of recent decades. This is perhaps not surprising, given it is unlikely that the Government will have met many of its 2019 health manifesto commitments by the general election and hence a desire to show real change.

For Labour, Wes Streeting’s ‘shift from treatment to prevention’ was reiterated throughout conference. Unlike the Conservatives’ approach of bold policy to demonstrate change, Labour’s position is focused on long-term planning. However, despite talk of 10-year strategies and the shift towards community-centric care, many were left questioning the practicalities of implementation including the rebalancing of investments and community staffing.

Crafting effective policy asks

Your policy asks must focus on levers that can enact change and drive impact.

While ambitious reforms may capture attention, policy teams in Government and the Opposition are facing competing priorities with limited resources.

Wes Streeting has reiterated this distinction, favouring detail and evidence over ‘pledge card policies’. This is especially important to bear in mind when engaging with Labour. Also, while Streeting may have presented his overarching goals in Labour’s Health Mission, his shadow ministers are still getting to grips with the intricate details of their briefs.

It is nuanced and well-articulated policies that will hold weight for Labour and the Conservatives in the run-up to the general election. This means an opportunity to engage constructively by offering expertise, insights, and data that can inform policy decisions. Organisations should invest in refining their precise policy asks that address the current real-world challenges, and where possible, costed roadmaps for implementation.

In it for the long haul

Focus on policy proposals that can unlock cash or productivity

What is abundantly clear is that both parties are positioning their priorities as long-term commitments and ambitions.

For both, this is in part necessity – with reluctance to commit to any new policy proposals for fear they could be held up as uncosted. The other part is about positioning, with parties wanting to be seen as the safe bet for the future. This pivot will arguably be harder to pull off for the Conservatives who have been at the helm for more than a decade. For Labour, it may suggest short term inertia if elected, with fiscal restraint likely to remain front and centre in the first 12-18 months.

For organisations looking to engage with the health policy agenda is greater scrutiny on the financial implications of policy proposals. Political and policy prioritisation is likely to be focused on interventions that can either unlock cash or create an immediate and measurable impact on productivity to unlock capacity in other parts of the system. Engagement should focus on being explicit about where these savings can be made.

About WA Communications

WA Communications is an integrated strategic communications and public affairs consultancy. Our specialist health practice supports clients across a diverse range of diseases at the intersection of policy, government affairs and communications, to achieve their strategic objectives.

If you would like to discuss how we can help your key areas of focus, contact Giulia Corsi at

Our analysis of the Labour Party’s health policy thinking draws Next Left – WA’s recently published Guide to Engaging with the Labour Party – which explores the people, processes and politics shaping the development of Labour’s next election manifesto, and how businesses in every sector can engage with the party’s plans.

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