Research from WA Communications on the health priorities of the new parliament has found that 62 per cent of MPs see mental health as the top priority for health spending over the next five years.
The research, informed by a cross-party YouGov poll of 100 parliamentarians, finds that more MPs selected mental health spending as a top three priority than any other condition, coming ahead of cancer care (selected by 35 per cent), cardiovascular (14 per cent) and diabetes (8 per cent).
The findings reflect the political prominence of mental health over the past few years with all major parties placing it core to their health plans. Yet a significant gap between the parties exists, with 80% of Labour MPs placing it as their top priority, in contrast to 47% of Conservative MPs.
Cancer care, traditionally a key political health issue, falls behind mental health overall, but is still viewed by more than a third of MPs as one of the top three priority areas for NHS funding. Conservative MPs identified cancer care as the area they would most like to see money spent on, with almost half (46%) selecting this.
This is despite Conservative Party plans to broaden the scope of the Cancer Drugs Fund into an Innovative Medicines Fund to support other areas such as autoimmune and rare diseases.
Matt Hancock’s ambition of an NHS shifting the NHS’s resources from treatment to prevention also appears to be backed by parliamentarians. 69 per cent of MPs believe the NHS should “direct more resources towards prevention, rather than increasing funding for new treatments.” This is 5% higher than when this question was asked a year previously, suggesting growing support for the prevention agenda.
MPs also believe that patients in the UK get good access to the medicines that can treat them best.
More than two thirds (67%) of MPs agreed with this statement, particularly Conservative MPs, with 79% stating this is the case. And just 25% of MPs believe improving the availability of new medicines on the NHS is a top funding priority.
This is despite a steady drumbeat of medicines access issues being raised throughout the last parliament, such as that of Orkambi.
Labour’s high-profile General Election focus on medicines pricing and life sciences companies being part of Brexit trade talks isn’t reflected by the Parliamentary Labour Party, with more than half (52%) of Labour MPs stating that patients get good access to medicines.
The polling was conducted by YouGov between 8th and 23rd January 2020. 101 MPs were polled, including 40 from the Conservative Party and 40 from the Labour Party.