David Cameron: Tories would meet NHS funding needs 'in full'

Conservative party vows to close funding gap identified in NHS Five Year Forward View, but Labour questions source of the extra money


By matt.foster

11 Apr 2015

A Conservative government would pump at least £8bn a year of extra funding into the National Health Service, David Cameron has said, but Labour has accused him of making "fantasy funding promises".

The prime minister said the Tories would meet “in full” the amount of extra government spending on the NHS called for by the service’s chief executive last October. The Opposition has questioned where the cash boost will come from.

NHS chief Simon Stevens set out a five-year plan for the NHS in England last year, which predicted that rising demand would, on current spending plans, leave the service with a funding gap of £30bn by 2020. At the time, Mr Stevens said £22bn of that total could be met through efficiency savings, but that £8bn a year in extra spending would also be needed to meet the shortfall.

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Announcing the funding pledge today, Cameron said his own experience of the care received by his severely disabled son Ivan - who died in 2009 - had left him “utterly committed” to the service.

"That's why I'm backing the NHS's own plan with the cash required to ensure it can continue to deliver an amazing service to patients and their families in the future," he added.

In a column in today’s Guardian, chancellor George Osborne said that the Conservative manifesto - expected next week - would “commit to a minimum real terms increase in NHS funding of £8 billion in the next five years”, while health secretary Jeremy Hunt said the funds could be used to provide same-day access to GPs for those aged over 75.

But Labour has questioned the promise of more funding, with shadow health minister Liz Kendall this morning expressing doubt about whether the pledge had been fully costed.

“How’s he going to fund it? It’s not worth the paper it’s written on,” she told the Today programme. “We are the only party that have committed additional funding to the NHS that is properly sourced - £2.5bn.”

Asked whether Labour would match the pledge, Ms Kendall said: “We will do whatever it takes to get the NHS the money it needs. But we are a serious party that is serious about being in government. And we do not think it is right to make fantasy funding promises, actually, quite frankly from a Tory party that’s panicking at the moment because it’s not got any clear vision for the country or the NHS.”

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt told the same programme that those doubting the pledge should judge the government on its record.

"We can fund these promises," he said. "And the evidence, if you don’t want to take the commitment that David Cameron and George Osborne are making today, look at their track record. They are committing today to an additional £8bn. Over the course of the last five years, when the economy was actually in a much more perilous state because of what we inherited from the Labour party, they’ve been able to increase funding by £7bn.“

A Conservative source told the Times meanwhile that the party was not yet setting out a “precise trajectory” of how the £8bn figure would be met by 2020.

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