General election 2024: HCPs clear on what they want to avoid

02.07.2024 | Insight

General election 2024: HCPs clear on what they want to avoid

On the 22nd of May 2024, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called for a long-awaited General Election. Healthcare professionals (HCPs) online quickly took to social media to express their opinions on the policies and manifestos of the different political parties, with over 5,000 UK health workers publishing nearly 110,000 posts in the month following the announcement, highlighting the importance and urgency HCPs are placing on the upcoming elections.

HCP conversation around the upcoming election centred on their dissatisfaction and criticism of the two big parties, as evidenced by the spikes in conversations over the one month period following the announcement of the election. These criticisms ranged from socioeconomic policies to the running of the country to the handling of the election campaign.

One contributing factor to a spike in conversation in May came as HCPs shared posts petitioning the public to avoid voting for the Conservative Party for the sake of the NHS. Palliative care doctor Rachel Clarke’s post with this message was shared over 50 times by other HCPs.

HCPs sceptical over both Conservative and Labour Party where the NHS and healthcare is concerned

HCPs were largely sceptical and unhappy towards both the major political parties, expressing their own opinions regarding their past and future positions on the NHS and healthcare policies. Over 80% of posts mentioning the Conservative Party and nearly 70% of posts mentioning the Labour Party were negative in sentiment.

There were several criticisms that spurred negative HCP sentiment towards NHS and healthcare policies.

1. NHS privatisation was the main criticism for both parties

The majority of HCPs expressing their opinion online are vehemently opposed to the privatisation of the NHS, believing that it is a sign of the greed and corruption of the Conservative Party. HCPs compared the state of the NHS before the Conservative Party took over to present times, and felt that the Conservatives had created the need for privatisation through defunding, as highlighted by the 28 reposts of A&E doctor Andrew Meyerson’s post.

Despite highlighting that the NHS was better under the previous Labour government, many HCPs believe that the Labour Party’s stance towards the privatisation of the NHS does not provide much more hope. HCPs were critical that Labour were taking the exact same path as the Conservatives towards NHS privatisation and did not have anything else to offer the system. This led some HCPs to look towards other parties like the Green Party:

2. State of cancer treatment spurred criticism from HCPs towards the conservatives

A key theme in HCP dissatisfaction with the Conservative Party’s stance on healthcare was the current state of access to cancer treatment for patients. 21 HCPs shared a post by medical consultant Dan Goyal, who expressed his anger at the wait for cancer treatment experienced by patients, and stated: “I will NEVER forgive this Tory Govt and all those who enabled them to collapse the NHS.”

Similarly, palliative care doctor Rachel Clarke shared statistics about the shortfall in oncology staffing and an article about cancer treatment delays, stating “Deadly, unforgivable, ubiquitous delays. The @Conservatives disgusting record on NHS cancer care.” which garnered 57 shares by her HCP peers.

3. HCPs were doubtful about the new GP surgeries promised in the Conservative manifesto

Despite the Conservative Party’s effort to boost the NHS through the promise of new hospitals and GP surgeries, over 600 posts by HCPs slammed this proposed plan from their manifesto, comparing them to ‘imaginary’ and ‘fictitious’ 40 new hospitals promised in their previous manifesto. HCPs felt that the promised new surgeries were ‘lies’ and empty promises, nearly all who discussed the new surgeries felt dubious about the possibility of it becoming a reality.

HCPs found some hope in the manifestos of smaller parties

Whilst discussing them less frequently, over 90% of HCP posts about the Green Party and the Scottish National Party (SNP) were positive, when referencing their policies on healthcare and the NHS. HCPs were excited about the funding the Green Party was allocating towards healthcare. Those who were advocating for the Green Party saw it as the only alternative to the Conservative and Labour Parties, nurse Harry Eccles said he would be voting Green as he did not want to have the “privatisation of the NHS on [his] conscience.”

Some HCPs saw the SNP manifesto as the “kind of manifesto many wanted Labour to deliver” where healthcare is concerned, a sentiment shared by medical consultant Dan Goyal and shared by 8 other HCPs.

The Liberal Democrats received a small amount of engagement from HCPs, with a few loyal supporters sharing their enthusiasm for the party’s manifesto and approach to healthcare, recognising their “plan for a National Care Service, a Royal College of Care & a plan to recognise the value of carers & care work”. That being said, the Liberal Democrats have not created much of a buzz among HCPs, with a low volume of mentions by HCPs online indicating a low awareness online of the party’s stance on healthcare and the NHS.

Whilst HCPs were positive towards the policies of these smaller parties for the NHS, these posts did not outrightly celebrate the policies on their own, instead comparing them to the policies of the Conservative or Labour party. This implies that HCPs are looking for an alternative to the disappointment felt by them regarding the treatment of the healthcare system in the UK in the manifestos of the two major parties.

HCPs clearer about what they don’t want, rather than what they do

Most of the noise created online by HCPs was about not voting for the Conservatives, rather than pointing towards where they felt that their vote would lie. Of the top 50 most shared posts, only 6% expressed what they hoped for from the new government, the remaining 94% criticised the Conservatives or Labour, calling others not to vote for them.

If the upcoming election was decided by HCPs with the running of the NHS at the forefront of mind, our research suggests neither the Conservative Party nor the Labour Party would come into power. Yet, it remains to be seen which party will receive the votes of the HCPs. 

HCPs online have been clear and indicative about where their votes will not lie, with little indication of where it will. Despite positivity towards smaller parties such as the Green Party, those sentiments were felt across a small number of HCPs rather than reflecting the sentiments of the majority. 

The sheer volume of HCPs expressing distrust and anger towards the Conservative Party might cause them to vote Labour, simply because they have “watched what happens to the NHS under a Conservative government”, however Labour’s perceived stance on the privatisation of the NHS has caused a loss of confidence in them from HCPs. One thing is for sure, for HCPs, Conservative is out.

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Meet the Author

Francesca Gan

Fran analyses the unprompted online conversations of healthcare professionals to produce actionable insights for clients. Her background in legal research provides a solid foundation in critical thinking and enables a well rounded approach to her data research.

Fran has a keen interest in netball and is a big follower of the New Zealand domestic netball league. She is also a lover of board games and card games, especially ones that involve shouting!