The Tory election manifesto will commit to a “minimum real terms increase in NHS funding of £8bn” by 2020, which the party says is a firm promise to fund the five-year plan for the NHS in England.
Health experts said the pledge raised pressure on Labour to match the funding commitment, which also made a significant announcement on the NHS over the weekend.
Writing in The Guardian, chancellor George Osborne said: “I can confirm that in the Conservative manifesto [this week] we will commit to a minimum real terms increase in NHS funding of £8bn in the next five years.”
“That is a minimum of £8bn over and above the £2bn down payment that I announced in the autumn statement last year,” he said. “We’ve funded the NHS through the last five years; today we commit to fund it for the next five years.
“We can make this commitment because we’ve got the track record and a plan to grow our economy. New figures, confirmed by the Treasury, show that in the five years from 2010-11 to 2015-16 we are set to deliver a real-terms increase of £7.3bn,” he added.
The pledge to meet the funding commitments set out in the NHS Five Year Forward View was originally made by health secretary Jeremy Hunt in March, although questions remain around where the funding will come from and how it will be rolled out.
The Liberal Democrats were the first party to commit to meeting the £8bn funding requirement by 2020 back in January, though they too have not yet accounted for where all of the money will be sourced.
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As a result, Labour are now the only one of the main three parties left not to commit to the £8bn figure.
However, at the weekend Labour called on the government to spell out how it would fund the pledge, rather than simply to cite economic growth.
Labour shadow minister for care and older people Liz Kendall told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “It’s not worth the paper it’s written on.”
She added that Labour was “the only party that has committed additional funding for the NHS that is properly sourced”, and that she did not “think it is right to make fantasy funding promises.”
King’s Fund chief executive Chris Ham told the Today programme that there seemed to be an “emerging political consensus” around the £8bn funding pledge for the NHS, but the question now was whether Labour will also match that offer.
“We can make this commitment because we’ve got the track record and a plan to grow our economy”
The £8bn of extra funding target has been extrapolated from the five-year plan published in October, which said the health service would need additional resources worth more than 1.5% a year in real terms over the next parliament to bridge a £30bn funding gap.
Even with £8bn of additional funding, the plan would still require the NHS to find £22bn in efficiency savings – a target many NHS finance experts feel is unrealistic.
We are committed to raising £2.5bn extra over and above the Conservatives’ plans – through a mansion tax on properties over £2m, tackling tax avoidance and a levy on tobacco firms – to invest in new staff and support service transformation,” they stated.