The Liberal Democrats will protect the National Health Service budget in the next Parliament.
Spending will rise by at least the rate of inflation over the next Parliament under plans included in the party’s election manifesto.
We will also pool health and social care budgets. This would help make care more tailored towards individual patients and reduce inefficiencies.
This comes after a previous Liberal Democrat commitment to establish a mental health research fund worth £50 million per year by 2020.
Liberal Democrat Health spokesman Norman Lamb said:
“The NHS was a Liberal idea and we are proud to be committed to protecting funding over the next Parliament.
“In this parliament the Government has had to make difficult decisions to cut the deficit and build a stronger economy. We have protected the NHS and Liberal Democrats will continue to protect the NHS budget from cuts in the next parliament.
“We are clear that a crucial part of building a fairer society, where there is opportunity for everyone, is ensuring that once the deficit is eliminated public services are protected.“
“Labour have said that this is irresponsible, and in Wales they have cut the NHS budget by 8%. They are wrong and will be judged on this record.“
The Liberal Democrats will:
· Guarantee the NHS budget will rise by at least the rate of inflation every year. We will commission a Fundamental Review of NHS and social care finances in 2015, before the next Spending Review, in order to assess the pressures on NHS and social care 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 always ensure access is based on need and not on ability to pay and that that NHS remains free at the point of delivery.
· Secure local agreement on and pooling of budgets between the NHS and social care.
· Reform the NHS payment system to encourage better integration of hospital and community care services and better preventative care for people with long term conditions. This would include more use of personal budgets for people who want them and better access to technology and services to help people get care closer to home.
· Implement the Dilnot Report proposals for a cap on the cost of social care.
Why it is necessary
The NHS was the idea of a Liberal politician – William Beveridge. That ideal, of healthcare free at the point of delivery is as important today as it was when it was conceived, over 65 years go. We are absolutely committed to the NHS: a service provided free at the point of delivery providing better care.
To protect our NHS, we will guarantee that the NHS budget will not be cut. It will go up by at least the rate of inflation every year.
But in order to protect our NHS it will need to work differently in future. There are long term pressures on the budgets of health services all over the world – an ageing population, the rise of long term conditions like diabetes, and the development of new technologies and higher expectations mean that there is continued pressure on the system. In order to meet these challenges, services will have to work differently: to be more joined up. To provide care closer to home.