You cannot have a strong NHS without a strong economy, and you cannot have a strong economy without a strong NHS.
Ed Miliband says that he is the man to save the NHS, but there is simply no evidence in favour of this. What the evidence does show is that the Conservatives in Government have rescued the economy, protected NHS funding, and improved patient care.
The Government realises the central role that the Service plays in our national life, and so made a promise to protect its budget. The Coalition examined the NHS carefully and was able to make savings, but reinvested all those savings back into the NHS, improving the quality of care that patients receive. This has been very successful. Just last year, for example, NHS spending went up by £2.7 billion in real terms, and there has been a 4.4% real terms increase in funding during this Parliament. The most important thing to realise is this: the promise that Labour is making about the NHS going into the next election is less than what the Government has actually delivered during its time in office. This is a remarkable achievement, and one of which I am very proud.
Also, the Government has put local doctors in charge of commissioning, and, because of this, the use of the private sector in the service has slowed significantly. The Shadow Health Secretary talks a lot about integrating health and social care systems, but, in 13 years in power, Labour did nothing about it. The Government has. In April, the Better Care Fund starts, and will see local authority areas coordinate care with the NHS for the first time ever. Labour’s NHS mismanagement and target-based culture allowed the disasters at Mid Staffs to take place. Labour haven’t apologised, but we Conservatives are putting things right.
At the next election, we will promise again to protect and increase the NHS budget, but we are also promising to improve GP access for millions by introducing seven-days-a-week appointments nationwide by 2020; to provide a named GP for everyone, reserving Labour’s terrible decision to scrap family doctors; and to make the UK the best country in the world for the elderly.
Labour’s position is very different:
- Their hollow funding pledge began to unravel immediately, with the Shadow Chancellor admitting that not a penny of their £2.5 billion promise would materialise in their first year, leading the Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies to describe their mansion tax proposals as ‘guesswork’.
- Their plans to re-introduce GP access targets based on clinical grounds has been criticised by the Royal College of GPs as ‘ill thought-out’. It will stand in the way of patients getting the appointments they need.
- In Wales, where Labour do control the NHS through the Welsh Assembly, the budget has been cut by 8%, A&E targets have not been met in any year since 2008, and the Royal College of Surgeons say that patients are dying on waiting-lists.
Labour seriously damaged the economy and the NHS. We Conservatives are rescuing both.