Belfast Telegraph

Home News UK

Tories' £8bn NHS funding pledge

David Cameron is laying down the gauntlet to Labour by pledging to pump at least an extra £8 billion a year into the NHS by 2020.

The Prime Minister said he would protect the "amazing" health service by funding in full the five-year reform plan put forward by its chief executive Simon Stevens.

The commitment means that over-75s will be guaranteed same-day access to GPs, patients will be able to see doctors out of regular office hours and the NHS will provide a full range of services seven days a week, according to Mr Cameron.

The move, on a key election battleground, comes after a week of bitter skirmishing that saw the Tories question Ed Miliband's character - reminding voters that he "stabbed his brother in the back" to win the Labour leadership.

Mr Cameron has insisted his party is merely raising legitimate concerns over issues such as the renewal of Trident and a potential tie-up with the SNP.

However, Mr Miliband argued that the personal attacks showed the Conservatives were "desperate", and polls have suggested Labour may have gained ground slightly.

The blueprint unveiled by Mr Stevens last October predicted that if health spending rose only in line with inflation, growing demand for care would leave NHS England with a £30 billion funding gap by 2020.

The chief executive said around £22 billion of that could be met through efficiencies - but the rest would have to come from government coffers.

The Liberal Democrats have committed to finding the extra money, and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt previously gave a strong indication that the Tories would also meet the demand.

Confirming the move, Mr Cameron said his track record over the last five years showed he could be trusted to protect the NHS, with annual spending up to £7.3 billion in real terms. But he did not spell out exactly where the extra money up to 2020 will come from.

Referring to the care of his severely disabled son Ivan - who died in 2009 - the premier added: "As someone who's been supported by the NHS at the most difficult time in my life, I'm utterly committed to ensuring it is there for everyone when they need it too.

"That's why I'm backing the NHS's own plan with the cash required to ensure it can continue to deliver an amazing service to patients and their families in the future."

Writing in The Guardian, Chancellor George Osborne said: "We back the NHS's plan, but there's no point having a plan without the funding to deliver it, so today we commit to deliver what the NHS needs.

"I can confirm that in the Conservative manifesto next week we will commit to a minimum real terms increase in NHS funding of £8 billion in the next five years.

"Decisions about spending go to the heart of our politics because they reflect our values.

"We in the Conservative Party are in no doubt about our approach: the NHS is something precious, we value it for the security it provides to everyone in our country, and we will always give it the resources it needs."

A Labour Party spokesman said: "The Tories are briefing the same story they've done five times before. There is still no firm commitment, still no idea where the money coming from - and they still can't be trusted on NHS."

A Lib Dem spokesman said: "The Conservative ideological obsession with cutting the size of the state means they cannot afford this unfunded spending commitment.

"The Liberal Democrats are the only party who has committed to giving the NHS the £8 billion it needs and have set out how we will pay for it.

"Tory spending plans will not help the NHS but rather destroy vital public service and decimate basic entitlements."

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.


From Belfast Telegraph