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Cameron promises increased NHS spending

Labour accuses prime minister of breaking similar promises made in 2010

Louise Prime

Wednesday, 01 October 2014

The Conservatives will protect the NHS from spending cuts for the next five years if they are elected next May, David Cameron promised this afternoon at his party’s annual autumn conference. But Labour met with scorn the prime minister’s pledge for real-terms increases in the NHS budget, saying he’d broken similar promises before.

David Cameron used his speech – in which he commended the UK’s research into genetic diseases, but failed to mention GPs even once – to defend his Government’s record on the NHS. He insisted: “I believe we can be proud of what we’ve done. We came in and protected the NHS budget, funded 6,500 more doctors, 3,300 more nurses and a Cancer Drugs Fund … All this is only possible because we have managed our economy responsibly.” And he told conference: “We will do it again – the next Conservative government will protect the NHS budget and continue to invest more.”

But Labour pointed out that the prime minister made the same promise before the 2010 general election – and it accused him of breaking that promise. Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham responded: “Labour has already pledged an extra £2.5bn over and above Tory plans to pay for 20,000 more nurses and 8,000 GPs – investment that David Cameron has failed to match.

“People will take David Cameron’s pre-election pledges on the NHS with a large pinch of salt. Last time, he promised ‘real-terms increases’ but then cut NHS spending in his very first year in office. He promised ‘no top-down reorganisation’ but then brought forward the biggest ever, throwing the NHS into chaos and siphoning £3bn out of front-line care to pay for it. He promised no privatisation but has proceeded to put NHS services up for sale without the permission of the public. He promised to protect the NHS but its getting harder to see your GP and waiting times are going up.”

He ended: “Cameron’s promises on the NHS have been shown to be not worth the paper they are written on. You can’t trust the Tories with the NHS.”

The prime minister in turn accused Labour of “spreading complete and utter lies” about the Tories’ record on the NHS and demanded: “How dare they frighten those who are relying on the NHS right now?”

David Cameron in turn accused Labour of never understanding that a strong NHS can only exist in a strong economy. He promised to “balance the books” and to find £25bn of savings in the first two years of the next Parliament, through spending cuts alone. He said: “Because we know this truth – something Labour will never acknowledge and we will never forget – you can only have a strong NHS if you have a strong economy.”

The BMA welcomed the prime minister’s promise of more funding, but warned that it might not be enough for an NHS in crisis. Dr Mark Porter, chair of BMA Council, said: “Even with a protected budget, patient demand and costs are rising faster than investment which is why the NHS is facing a gap in funding of £30bn by 2020 and services are stretched to breaking point ... patients are having to wait longer to see their GP, A&E waiting times are the worst they’ve been in a decade and a winter crisis (which) has spilled over into spring, summer and autumn.”

He added: “Guarantees on investment are only good enough if they can truly keep up with rising demand, and if the NHS is to survive we need an evidenced, long-term solution to the funding crisis facing the health service. Without this, our NHS – which is the best health care system in the world – simply won’t be able to cope.”

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