Lib Dems will invest £35 billion and stop Brexit to protect NHS

The Liberal Democrats have today set out their plans to protect the NHS, by stopping Brexit and investing an extra £35 billion in the health service and social care over the next five years.

The Liberal Democrats would raise £7 billion a year in additional revenue, ring-fenced for the NHS and social care services, by adding a penny on income tax. On top of this, the party has announced a £10 billion capital fund to upgrade equipment, ambulances, hospitals and other NHS buildings to bring them into the 21st Century.

The Liberal Democrats have also set out plans to tackle the severe staffing shortages across the NHS and end the current shortfall of GPs within five years (by 2024/25). This would be done by retaining free movement including for the 65,000 EU citizens working in the NHS, reinstating nursing bursaries and establishing a national workforce strategy to match training places to future needs.

Announcing the policy, Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Social Care Luciana Berger said:

The NHS is struggling to cope with severe staff shortages, chronic underfunding and crumbling hospital buildings. All of these problems would be made much worse by a Tory or Labour Brexit that would end free movement and make it harder to attract nurses and doctors from the EU.

The Liberal Democrats will build a brighter future by stopping Brexit, and we will put a penny on income tax to raise an extra £35 billion for the NHS and social care.

We are the only party with a credible plan to protect the NHS, by tackling the staffing crisis, investing in mental health services, social care, public health and and making our NHS buildings fit for the 21st century.

The Liberal Democrats have today set out a comprehensive plan to protect NHS by:

Raising £7 billion a year in additional revenue from a 1p rise on the basic, higher and additional rates of Income Tax. This would be ring-fenced to be spent only on NHS and social care services. This would amount to £35 billion in real terms over the next five years. Of the £35 billion, £32.2 billion would be spent in England, £1.8 billion in Wales and £1 billion in Northern Ireland (please note this revenue will be neither levied nor spent in Scotland because income tax policy is devolved).

  • This funding would be focused on relieving the crisis in social care, tackling urgent workforce shortages, and investing in mental health and prevention services. This represents the most efficient and effective way of spending these extra resources – ensuring they will have the greatest impact on the quality of care patients receive.

Using £10 billion of capital funding to make the necessary investments in equipment, hospitals, community, ambulance and mental health services buildings, to bring them into the 21st Century. This would be paid for through government borrowing and would be on top of the £35 billion raised through the penny on income tax. NHS leaders recently warned that the Conservative government’s lack of investment in capital funding for the NHS is putting patient safety at risk (NHS Providers, August 2019).

Liberal Democrats would address the chronic staffing shortages facing the NHS by:

Stopping Brexit to ensure we retain freedom of movement and continued mutual recognition of qualifications.

  • 65,000 EU citizens work in the NHS, including 20,000 nurses & 10,000 doctors (House of Commons Library, NHS staff from overseas: statistics).
  • We’ve already lost more than 5,000 EU nurses (net) in the last 2 years – exacerbating the nursing shortage that already sees 40,000 posts unfilled (Nursing & Midwifery Council, Register data tables, 31 March 2019).

Reinstating support for nursing students, starting with bursaries for specialties, where shortages are most acute such as mental health and learning disability nursing.

  • In 2018, two years on from the removal of the NHS student bursary, applications to nursing degree courses had fallen by a third in England. Numbers applying to begin training in September 2018 dropped 12% compared to the same time the previous year.

Ending the GP shortfall within five years (2024-25) by both training more GPs and also making better use of nurses, physiotherapists and pharmacists, and other health professionals, and also phone or video appointments, where clinically suitable.

  • The Conservative Government set an ambition in 2016 to increase GP numbers by 5,000 by 2020, but instead the numbers have fallen by 290 (full-time equivalent) – a decline of 1%.

Producing a national workforce strategy, to review the NHS’s future needs for all staff ensure training places are matched to future needs.

  • Between July and September 2018, there were 94,000 full-time equivalent advertised vacancies in hospital and community services alone. This equates to an estimated shortfall of 8% (around 1 in 12 posts).
  • The consequences of vacancies means increased costs for NHS trusts and worse patient care. At the end of 2018, NHS trusts were forecasting spending some £5.6 billion on temporary staff in 2018/19.
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  • How much of the seven billion a year will be absorbed by higher wages, esp as social care is only viable on minimum wages (scream, holler but that is the nasty reality). Also capital expenditure needs to come from tax revenue, as we can see from Labour’s previous splurge it is inefficient and needs repeating every decade, with often poor if not dangerous quality.

  • Given rapidly rising costs of healthcare (advanced technology driven, higher wages, spiraling costs to mitigate risks) and advancing age (living longer with more independece limiting disabilities), this is a tiny drop on the ocean, especially since it’s to be shared with social care.

    There will come a time when it needs to be asked whether we can still afford to deliver healthcare on the manner it’s expected.

  • Are you implying we should be selective in who gets healthcare James. Perhaps advocating a policy of not providing complex healthcare for the economically inactive unless they can pay. A real devil take the hindmost approach , not unlike the USA approach which leads to early death. Really not a view I can agree with. We can afford to provided healthcare, if we choose not to well that is a choice not a necessity. It is ironic that those that voted for Brexit and are now flocking behind Depeffle will be amongst the most in need of the NHS , they truly are voting to occupy an early grave; still will reduce the burden on the state and the need to pay pensions and other benefits. Truly Turkeys voting for an early Christmas.

  • We can save a lot of money by introducing a £10-11 price cap on prescription drugs like in most other EU countries, beyond that governments will cover the costs. It also means that the NHS would shed 8-9,000 jobs of people who process the prescriptions and reimburse the pharmacists in the Central Services Agency, which will certainly save the NHS even more money but don’t expect Unison or NIPSA to be over the moon about it.

    Doing this will be a political suicide.

  • Innocent Bystander 19th Nov '19 - 10:21am

    frankie, but we are facing a very challenging future. Medical advances are keeping people alive for longer with very expensive procedures and that means they need ever more expensive care to keep them alive for longer still.
    It’s a divergent situation. There may not be a convenient plateau where we get all the health care we would like at just the costs we can afford.
    So what do we do?

  • Frank Little 19th Nov '19 - 11:15am

    Part of the answer to Frank West’s question is “fiscal drag”.

  • As a turkey who did not vote for Brexit I, none the less, feel that a country as wealthy as we are reputed to be , should be ashamed of itself if it cannot look after its citizens who through old age or other social problems need help at certain times in their lives. No doubt our economy would cope with this extra expense if it was managed properly and money not wasted on so many vanity projects and exceedingly high salaries. But as things are unlikely to change perhaps I should now vote for an early Christmas?

  • nigel hunter 19th Nov '19 - 11:45am

    I have heard that there are shortages of drugs for certain health problems.Pharma companies are like all businesses they need certainty to plan for the future. Brexit leads to uncertainty and plans are put on hold then started again. Stop go shortages. However this can equally lead to loss of earnings in the company and they can therefore recoup that loss by putting up prices. Just one way that Health in Brexit scenario can develop.
    Constant Health improvements will exist but will equally need to be paid for. Health expenditure will always go up for all sorts of reasons.

  • Health merges into Greenness, with beneficial need to eat more plant based foods and less meat, and to walk much more than rely on cars or even electric buggies – use the tax system to educate and encourage people in the right direction.

  • This is extremely sensible policy we use we pay we support the NHS. Together with health education as prevention better than cure. Why is this not getting thousands of views. We are not getting message out. Where is the American guru who helped Barrack win against the odds. I thought he was advising lib dems or fi I dream that??

  • Kay Kirkham 19th Nov '19 - 5:10pm

    I think , Frank West, you’ll find that electric buggies are used by people who have very limited walking ability. And they use their cars to get said buggy to where they want to be.

  • I do hope that a LibDem Government would reverse some of the structural Andrew Lansley changes to the NHS, which required all services to be put to private tender, which has resulted in increased privatisation, fragmentation and large payments from the taxpayer to private health companies, such as Virgin, re challenges to outsourcing contracts.
    I confess that I was not happy that the election, which Johnson craved, was granted and fear that a Johnson administration would be a winwin for the SNP.This is old ground and I would have preferred that Johnson’s feet had been held to the fire for as long as possible, to scrutinise the deal, with GNU, but realistically, it would still have come to a head, a month later, when the extension expired.
    I have been all round the houses, but I want to be able to look my grandchildren in the eye, that I tried my best to stop this self inflicted disaster, so really, for me, it is as simple as that.

  • Barry Lofty 19th Nov '19 - 6:08pm

    Hear, Hear I also want the best future possible for my children and grandchildren and that future would be greatly enhanced by the continuing membership of the EU. The present leadership’s of the Tories a the Labour parties fill me with dread for their on going safety and prosperity.

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