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Politicians’ promises could double GP workforce

LibDems plans could fund 46,000 more GPs

Adrian O'Dowd

Friday, 10 April 2015

New spending plans announced by the Liberal Democrat Party could mean significantly more new GPs being recruited to the NHS, possibly doubling the current workforce.

The LibDems announced that if it won at the general election, it would create a one-off “transformation fund” worth £250 million that would help drive a “digital revolution” in the NHS by funding new technology.

The fund, found by selling off “redundant NHS assets” would go towards new technology, said the party, specifically by making more doctor appointments and repeat prescriptions available online, and improving GP access by encouraging more patients to contact their doctors by Skype.

By providing the transformation fund, the party said this would help fund the changes that NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens has said will be needed in the next parliament.

The LibDems said they were the only party to have committed to meeting Mr Stevens’ call for an additional £8 billion for the NHS made in the NHS Five Year Forward View published in October of last year.

This meant the party was promising to spend £17 billion more than the Conservatives and £7 billion more than Labour on the NHS.

Although described as illustrative examples, the LibDems said this meant they could pay for 5 million more operations than the Conservatives, and hire 38,000 more GPs than Labour and 150,000 more nurses.

Similar promises on the NHS have been made by the other parties to attract voters – Labour promised it would hire 8,000 extra GPs using its £2.5bn a year Time to Care fund.

The Conservative Party has promised to train 5,000 more GPs and earlier this week, health secretary Jeremy Hunt, speaking on the BBC’s The World at One programme, said his party would fill the funding gap, whether that was more or less than £8bn.

“We will back the NHS’s own plan in full,” said Mr Hunt. “So we agree with the NHS when they say that if they can make £22 billion of efficiency savings, the NHS would need £8 billion. We will give whatever they need. It might be more than £8 billion, it might be less.”

Liberal Democrat leader and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg said: “The NHS doesn’t need warm words, it needs hard cash. And we know exactly how much because the boss of NHS England has told us – an extra £8 billion-a-year by 2020.

“The Liberal Democrats are the only party that has committed to finding that money and the only one that has set out how it will pay for it. But we also need to help the NHS adapt so it is fit for the challenges of the 21st century.

“That’s why we have a plan to introduce modern technology that will help patients, with more doctors’ appointments and repeat prescriptions at the touch of a button.”

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