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Liberal Democrats promise £35bn boost to the NHS

GP workforce shortfall reversed within five years, they pledge

Adrian O'Dowd

Thursday, 21 November 2019

The Liberal Democrat Party has promised it will invest £35bn more into the NHS and social care if it wins next month’s general election.

In the party’s newly published manifesto, it also promised to reverse the shortage in numbers of GPs in the UK by 2025.

This compares to the Conservative Party pledge to recruit 6,000 more GPs by 2025 and invest £33.9bn more into the NHS and Labour’s promise to implement a real-terms increase of £26bn for day-to-day NHS spending from 2018-19 to 2023-24 while expanding GP training places to 5,000.

The Liberal Democrat manifesto document Plan for the Future says the party would tackle the staffing crisis and invest in mental health services, social care, public health and more.

Its plans are to raise £7bn a year in additional revenue, ring-fenced for the NHS and social care services, by adding a penny on income tax.

On top of this, it would use a £10bn capital fund to upgrade equipment, ambulances, hospitals and other NHS buildings to make them suitable for today’s needs.

The document says: “A Liberal Democrat government will tackle the severe staffing shortages across the NHS and end the current shortfall of GPs within five years.

“This will be done by retaining free movement including for the 65,000 EU citizens working in the NHS, reinstating nursing bursaries and establishing a national workforce strategy to match training places to future needs.”

The plan sets out how the Liberal Democrats would end the GP shortfall by 2025 by both training more GPs and making greater appropriate use of nurses, physiotherapists and pharmacists, and also phone or video appointments, where clinically suitable.

The party said it intended to support GPs, nurses, physiotherapists, mental health and other professionals to work together across their local areas to provide multi-disciplinary health and care services, and to improve appointments outside of normal working hours, including mobile services.

“We will move towards single place-based budgets for health and social care – encouraging greater collaboration between the local NHS and local authorities in commissioning,” it said.

“We will particularly encourage Clinical Commissioning Groups and local councils to collaborate on commissioning, including further use of pooled budgets, joint appointments and joint arrangements, and encourage emerging governance structures for Integrated Care Systems to include local government, and be accountable to them.”

In the longer term, the Party said it wanted to commission the development of a dedicated, progressive “Health and Care Tax”, offset by other tax reductions. The intention was to bring together spending on both health and social care services into a collective budget.

Responding to the manifesto, health think tank the Nuffield Trust’s chief economist Professor John Appleby said: “The immediate extra funding announced by the Liberal Democrats is welcome for the NHS and social care.

“But there are some big unanswered questions about the proposal to move to paying for care through a special Health and Care Tax. This idea puts the cart before the horse – we should decide how much we want to spend on the NHS and then raise the money, not just wait to see how much comes in. If revenues from this tax fall, in an economic downturn for example, it could mean cuts for health and care.”

Richard Murray, chief executive of The King’s Fund, said: “The manifesto commitment to an extra £7bn a year in health and care funding is welcome recognition of the need to invest in services after a decade-long funding squeeze.

“Thankfully the party has also resisted the temptation a huge reorganisation of the NHS, allowing health and care leaders to focus on improving services.”

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