Tory leader David Cameron is to pledge to divert NHS resources to deprived areas at the launch of the Conservative manifesto today.
At the start of what could be a five month election campaign, Mr Cameron will attempt to counter the Tory image as the party of the rich.
He will also pledge to give mothers “real choice” over the kind of childbirth and other services they want.
The party leader has stressed his personal commitment to the NHS, promising that health budgets will not be subject to the same cuts as other departments.
But Labour insisted that only it can be trusted to protect the healthcare system, claiming the Tories would make fundamental changes that would hit the poor.
At the weekend prime minister Gordon Brown renewed his attack on Mr Cameron’s spending plans, accusing him of proposing an age of “austerity” rather than “aspiration”.
However, the prime minister denied that he was trying to portray Mr Cameron as a “toff”. He told the BBC that his Commons barb that Tory policy had been dreamed up “on the playing fields of Eton” was “a joke”.
Conservative sources have indicated that today’s announcements on the NHS are designed as a direct rebuttal of Labour’s “class war” tactics.
Mr Cameron will say his administration would divert a higher share of NHS resources to boost health in run-down areas. The move is in sharp contrast to the Tories’ manifesto at the 2005 general election, when the party was offering to subsidise those who chose to have their treatment in private hospitals.
There will also be a commitment to introduce “maternity networks”, which would link community based maternity units with more specialist hospital care.