Labour party leader Ed Miliband today announced it would introduce a “£2.5bn NHS Time to Care Fund”, increasing health service funding at a greater rate than at present, if he formed a government next year.
Speaking at the Labour party conference in Manchester Mr Miliband said the first priority for the new fund would be to fund 20,000 more nurses, 8,000 more GPs, 5,000 more careworkers and 3,000 more midwives. He said he would make the health service the centerpiece of Labour’s election campaign.
The funding would be raised by a new “mansion tax”; a “sin tax”, levied against tobacco manufacturers, and a clampdown on tax avoidance, with hedge funds singled out as a targeted sector, Mr Miliband said.
Mr Miliband told delegates: “We will clamp down on tax avoidance including tax loop holes for the hedge funds. We will use the proceeds on a mansion tax on homes above £2m. We will raise extra resources from the tabacco companies who make soaring profits on ill health.
“Tomorrow [health secretary] Andy Burnham will set out an integrated plan for physical health, mental health and care for the elderly. A truly 21st century national health service.
“The stakes are incredibly high in this national election and nowhere more so than for the National Health Service. We know the NHS is sliding backwards under this government. We know that they are privitising and fragmenting it. Just imagine what another five years of David Cameron would mean for our National Health Service.”
Mr Miliband repeated the party’s pledge to repeal parts of the Health Act 2012.
A Labour press statement said: “[The fund] will address a growing problem which has meant one in four people not getting a GP appointment within a week, more than half of nurses saying their wards are dangerously understaffed, and community care services which can often prevent people from needing expensive hospital treatment in crisis.
“This fund will give doctors and nurses the time to care properly for patients, as well as beginning to transform services in communities and at home so our NHS can meet the challenges of the 21st Century at a time of unprecedented financial pressure.
“The NHS Time to Care Fund will help ensure safe levels of staffing in hospitals - together with the access to family doctors and community services needed to keep us healthy and ease the pressure on NHS frontline services.”
Labour has not yet said how the funding would be phased. However, Mr Miliband said “there will be £2.5bn in an NHS time to care fund to start transforming services for the future”. The party indicated the funds would be provided on an annual basis, saying it policy will “raise £2.5bn a year”.
It also states that, as well as increasing funding, it will “enshrine a powerful new set of rights for patients in the NHS constitution to address the 21st century challenges that come from an ageing population, more people living with chronic conditions, the rise of mental health, and a higher premium on preventing illness”.
It is unclear what the new NHS constitution rights will be.