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Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Labour manifesto vows £2.5bn 'time to care' funding

Written by The Press Association

Labour's manifesto confirmed the party's pledge of a £2.5 billion "time to care" fund to boost spending on health, but did not match Conservative and Liberal Democrat promises to meet the full £8 billion budget shortfall identified by NHS England boss Simon Stevens.

The party promised 20,000 more nurses, 8,000 more GPs, and 3,000 more midwives, paid for by a Mansion Tax on properties worth over £2 million, a levy on tobacco firms, and by tackling tax avoidance. Some 5,000 homecare workers will be recruited to help elderly people stay in their homes for longer.

The manifesto said a Labour government would "stop the drive towards privatisation" in health by repealing the coalition's Health and Social Care Act and introducing a new commissioning framework under which the existing competition regime would be scrapped and the NHS would be the preferred provider for state healthcare. A cap would be placed on the profits of private companies providing clinical services to NHS patients.

It promised a guaranteed GP appointment within 48 hours - or on the same day for those who need it - and pledged that by 2020, cancer patients wait no longer than a week for vital tests.

Labour would create a Cancer Treatments Fund so patients have access to the latest drugs, surgery and radiotherapy, and GPs would be offered training and support to help spot early signs of the illness.

The manifesto promised a single service to deal with physical, mental and social care, with mental health given the same priority as physical health. Vulnerable older people, disabled people and those with complex needs will be given personal plans to help them maintain control over their care.

Maximum salt, sugar and fat levels will be set for foods marketed substantially to children, and the party will take "targeted action" on high-strength, low-cost alcoholic drinks.

A Labour government would ensure the NHS is given protection in the EU/US TTIP free trade deal, the manifesto said.

Chris Ham, chief executive of the King's Fund health thinktank, said that the manifesto "outlines a positive vision for a 21st century health and care system based on much closer integration of health and social care" and "marks a decisive break with the policies of the recent past in its rejection of markets and competition".

But Prof Ham said it was "hard to see how" Labour's plans to dismantle the Health and Social Care Act could be achieved without "disruptive structural changes to the NHS".

And he added: "The big question is about funding, with Labour now the only one of the three main parties not to have pledged to find the £8 billion a year in additional funding called for in the NHS five-year forward view. Given this is the minimum requirement if the NHS is to continue to meet patient needs and maintain standards of care, this leaves a significant gap at the heart of its plans."

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