Simon Stevens, the Chief Executive of NHS England, has published his 5-year Forward Look setting out the challenges facing our health and care system in the coming years.
It makes sobering reading. Simon Stevens sets out the huge scale of the financial challenge facing us in the years ahead as we continue to adapt to an ageing population, and increasing numbers of people living longer with multiple chronic conditions. We also need more investment to ensure that people with mental health problems can get the same standard of care and support as with physical health.
Earlier this month, the Liberal Democrats set out their priorities for the NHS. We committed to investing at least £1bn extra in our health and care system in each year in the next parliament. £500m of that will go to mental health to ensure mental health patients get fair treatment, and can access the support they need. And by the end of the next parliament we will give each carer £250 a year to recognise the immense contribution they make to society.
We also made clear that we would be arguing strongly this year for significant additional funding for the health and care system as part of the Autumn Statement. We are the only major party arguing for money next year for the NHS. And Simon Stevens has today made our case for us in the most powerful terms possible.
I know that when I speak to voters in my North Norfolk constituency, and when I meet people across the country, health and care are consistently among their highest priorities for government investment. But the Conservatives are not making the case for investment in health and care: they are just promising to maintain the current level of spending. If that’s the deal, the NHS would crash. Liam Fox has argued for an end to the NHS ringfence – but this could damage our NHS beyond recognition.
Labour, too, have not argued for any increase in funding next year. In Wales Labour has cut NHS spending by 8%, missing targets on A&E and cancer treatment and presiding over the worst ambulance response times in the UK. Over 13 years in government, Labour wasted money with PFI schemes and special favours to private companies. What is more, they just don’t understand that you can’t secure the future of our NHS without securing our economic recovery too.
I am passionately committed to our National Health Service, and the role it plays in giving every person the opportunity to enjoy a decent and fulfilled life regardless of their health needs.
And I recognise, as most people do, that if we want to have a sustainable NHS which is able to provide good care to those in need, we have to pay for it. Britain currently spends less than almost any other major country on its health and care system.
And we will be making the case relentlessly in the coming weeks to make sure the NHS gets the funding it needs next year so it can continue to provide excellent care to those in need. Liberal Democrats want to create opportunity for everyone by building a stronger economy and a fairer society. We cannot do this by neglecting our health and care system.