Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Bolt Burdon Kemp: General Election 2015 - The Big Three and what they promise for those with a spinal cord injury

When so much of your life is reliant on social care and NHS-funded assistance, the decisions of government can affect you on a far greater level than most UK citizens. That’s why it is important to have an idea of which way the political parties are leaning in the run up to the 2015 General Election and which policies directly affect you or your loved ones. Manifesto promises are infamously optimistic, and few explanations have been given of where all the promised funding comes from, however we have compiled for you the essential policies of the biggest three parties.

With only two days to go until the election, it’s vital that people within the disabled and spinally injured communities have as many facts at their disposal as possible.

Firstly, the Conservative manifesto pledges to increase the numbers of disabled employees by removing "barriers" to employment, and transforming "policy, practice and public attitudes". They pledge to "reassess" those on incapacity benefit, so that help only goes to those who really need it, as "the days of something for nothing" is over. The Conservatives pledge to continue to cap benefits, but will make exceptions for those with a disability, however they do not state the technicalities of these exceptions.

Secondly, the Conservative manifesto pledges to review 'hate crime' legislation committed against people on the basis of disability. This was reviewed in 2104 but no changes were made.

Thirdly, the Conservatives pledge to replace the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights. This proposed Bill of Rights is in an unknown form but will mean that the UK is not subject to EU law regarding the rights of the disabled and vulnerable.

In more general terms of NHS-funding, the Conservatives have pledged to increase NHS spending in England by at least £8bn above inflation over the next five years (the same figure as the Liberal Democrats interestingly) and to focus on “integrating health and social care”. They promise to improve access to mental health treatments, and guarantee seven-day access to GPs by 2020 with same day appointments for over-75s.
Labour are also committed to “integrating NHS health care and social care” but have somewhat more specific plans when it comes to funding for the NHS and in fact are the only party to focus on the needs of the disabled by creating ‘Disability Labour’: an affiliate of the party designed solely to support the interests of disabled people. Their general pledges include an extra £2.5bn in funding to pay for 20,000 more nurses, 3,000 more midwives and 8,000 GPs; a declared ending to 15 minute care visits; and an intention to repeal the Health and Social Care Act and cap the amount of profit private companies can make from NHS contracts at 5%.

Their disability-specific policies are far more wide-ranging than any other party as well, with their manifesto pledging to reverse the ‘bedroom tax’ and reform the Work Capability Assessment which they blame for causing excessive stress and anxiety. Regarding disability hate crime, they have prioritised bringing in tough new laws to combat the increase in violence against the disabled community. Finally, they have pledged to introduce a work support programme tailored for disabled people out of work who want to start a job or get back into an industry.

The Liberal Democrats are, as mentioned above, similarly promising an increase of £8bn a year for NHS funding, however they have provided a more detailed assessment of how this figure would be reached- with an initial increase of an extra £1bn a year until 2018. They have pledged £3.5bn extra for mental health services, £1.25bn of which has been allocated for children and teenagers, with £250m for pregnant woman and post-natal depression. They, like the other two biggest parties, are intending to integrate health and social care, and have declared that this would be through a shared budget.

The Liberal Democrat manifesto covers the needs of the disabled community in some detail, stating their aim of getting everyone the support and help they need, both financially and in terms of advice and support.”  This will still require a formal assessment but they promise to make the tests fairer and realise that they should not be an extra burden for vulnerable people. They also announced earlier this year that they are pushing for a ‘zero suicides’ policy which requires a better approach to mental health services, and are the main party considering ‘Assisted Dying’ and the legislative hurdles that remain which currently prevents evolution of that area of law.


The Conservatives and The Liberal Democrats both promise a “red-line dealbreaker” figure of £8bn extra funding for the NHS however this comes with £12bn of benefit cuts from the Conservative Party. Labour are pledging less money, however they want to overhaul the NHS in a more radical way, overturning the Health and Social Care Act completely and integrating the two areas.

All parties pledge more funding for the NHS as a whole, however the manifestos of Labour and the Liberal Democrats provide more detail when considering the specific needs or issues of the disabled demographic.

The future of the NHS will remain uncertain for the next few years, regardless of who wins this election, and further cuts are promised by most parties down the line. With Local Authority funding also now vulnerable to external pressures, there is an increased need for many who have been injured or disabled through no fault of their own to seek legal advice from a specialist firm of solicitors, such as Bolt Burdon Kemp, who can advise on whether they may be able to obtain compensation for their life changing injuries.

The NHS provides a crucial service in the very early days of a spinal cord injury but the demanding needs of various conditions limits the rehabilitation and maintenance potential of state funded healthcare over a person’s lifetime. Often, this lifelong need can only be met with private funding or through a claim for compensation. In order for needs to be met effectively, they must be tailored to the individual’s specific circumstances.

A successful claim for compensation will never change what has happened, but it may help fund care and treatment to enable someone with a spinal cord injury to live independently without reliance on the NHS or  local authority funding.

At Bolt Burdon Kemp, we believe that a claim is about more than just compensation; it is about giving clients (i) access to rehabilitation, treatment and equipment from an early stage, to ensure that they have the best quality of life possible following a spinal injury and (ii) peace of mind that their complex needs will always be met including those associated with care, equipment and accommodation, regardless of state funded healthcare.

The NHS will provide you with the vital basics to enable you to live independently. However, compensation aims to put you back in the position you would have been in if you had never sustained a spinal cord injury. The aim of compensation is to provide you with lifelong, independent funding to help meet these new and complex needs, which would not have arisen had you not suffered your injury.

Mariel Stringer - Fehlow works with Raquel Siganporia in the Spinal Injury team at Bolt Burdon Kemp. 

If you or a loved one have suffered an injury as a result of someone else’s negligence or you are concerned about the treatment you have received, contact us free of charge and in confidence on 020 7288 4844 or at raquelsiganporia@boltburdonkemp.co.uk for specialist legal advice. 

Alternatively, you can complete this form and one of the solicitors in the Spinal Injury team will contact you. You can find out more about the team here.

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