The Liberal Democrats are unique in British Politics in wanting to see Mental Health care put on the same financial footing as physical health care. During this parliament they have succeeded in getting funding for Mental Health Care increased, and for the first time they have introduced maximum waiting times for patients presenting to our Emergency Departments with mental health issues.
The Liberal Democrats also made over 100 amendments to the NHS Act that was originally proposed by the Tories. Amongst these changes was the removal of Labour’s original privatisation rule that allowed private sector companies to charge an additional 11% above the charges from the public sector to provide the same service.
Now the Liberal Democrats have gone much further and are the only major party to commit to funding in full the additional £ 8 billion a year that the NHS will need by the end of the next parliament in order to maintain services.
By comparison, the Labour party are proposing a £ 2.5 Billion increase, the Tories a £ 2 Billion increase, and the Green Party is proposing a £ 7.2 Billion pound cut.
But Liberal Democrat commitments to the NHS are not just about the funding, they are also about supporting changes proposed by medics as to how the NHS should work. The Liberal Democrats have unveiled their plan to establish a £2.5bn “Care Closer to Home” fund to help people stay healthier for longer and avoid hospital admissions.
Under their manifesto proposal, they say they would invest £500m a year to safeguard the NHS by providing care to people in their own homes, GP surgeries, care homes and community clinics.
The £500m annual fund will help to deliver the vision set out in Simon Steven’s Five Year Forward View for the NHS. Measures would allow GP surgeries to work together to provide care traditionally given in hospitals, such as X rays and other tests in their practices, so that patients do not have to travel into hospital. There would also better health care in care homes so that older people do not need to go into hospital unnecessarily.
- The Green Party manifesto promises that Government health spending should be “maintained at around the average in the European union” (HE385). Figures from the OECD show that in the UK overall spending on health stands at 9% of GDP, however 1% of that is private healthcare taking government spending on healthcare to 8%. The EU average spending on healthcare is 8.5%, however 2% of this is private healthcare taking the total government spend down to 6.5%. This means that the Green Party proposal as written means a cut from 8% to 6.5% of GDP in government funding for healthcare in the UK, which is a total cut of at least £ 7.5 Billion, the equivalent to cutting 9/10 nurses from the NHS.
- UKIP have not promised any additional funding for the NHS, but Nigel Farage has spoken about people taking out private health insurance to pay for the NHS (as they do in the USA, with no state provision of healthcare).
- 4.4% of NHS services were privatised by the Labour Party only 1.6% have been privatised by the coalition. Amongst the services that Labour privatised were front line services such as out of hours GP’s, walk in centres and whole tranches of Ambulance services (with taxis replacing ambulances in some instances).
- It should also be borne in mind that the majority of cuts in NHS equipment and beds have resulted from trusts having to reduce spending on services in order to service the debts that they have accrued thanks to the last Labour Government’s insistence on the use of private finance initiatives to fund hospital improvements. Labour’s PFI schemes have been the privatisation of the NHS Buildings.