The Liberal Democrats have today set out how we will safeguard the NHS for the future. Under Liberal Democrat spending plans, NHS funding will be at least £8bn higher per year in real terms by 2020.
The Liberal Democrats are the only political party to set out a credible road map for how we will safeguard the NHS over the next parliament.
This is in response to the Five Year Forward View published by the Chief Executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens. In his report, Stevens called for a real term funding boost of £8bn per year by 2020/21 – on top of efficiency savings and further reforms to the NHS.
To achieve this increase in funding by 2020/21, we will do three things:
1. We will maintain the additional £2bn that the Liberal Democrats successfully secured in the Autumn Statement for 2015/16.
2. In addition to this funding, as we set out at our Autumn Conference, we will invest a further £1bn in real terms in 2016/17 which we will then also maintain in future budgets. This will be paid for by capping pensions tax relief for the very wealthiest (saving £500m); aligning dividend tax with income tax for those earning over £150,000 (saving £400m); and scrapping the Conservative shares for rights scheme (saving £100m).
3. Once we have finished the job of tackling the deficit in 2017/18, we will increase health spending in line with growth in the economy.
But, as the Stevens Report makes clear, additional funding in the NHS alone is not enough. That is why on top of injecting more funding in the NHS, we will also commission a non-partisan fundamental review of NHS and social care finances in 2015, before the next Spending Review, in order to assess the pressures on NHS budgets and the scope for efficiencies. This will allow us to set multi-year budgets that will be sufficient to maintain and improve the current standard of NHS services, including keeping waiting times down.
We will focus additional funding on two key priorities that will help reduce cost pressures in other areas to help NHS funding remain sustainable:
1. Mental Health. We want to end the discrimination against mental health which has existed for too long in the NHS and we have pledged £500m extra a year (from the £1bn mentioned above) to support this from 2015/16 onwards.
2. Prevention. Keeping people healthier for longer and supporting people (especially the growing number of people living with long term conditions like diabetes) to stay as healthy as possible, getting care closer to home.
By contrast, Labour have pledged £2.5bn only to be fully introduced by the third year of the next parliament and have not committed to additional real terms increases beyond that. The Conservatives have made no specific real terms funding commitments.
Neither Labour or the Tories have a credible response to the funding challenges that the NHS faces.