Labour has launched its health manifesto and accused the Conservatives of making ‘unfunded commitments’ after ministers pledged to invest significant extra funding into the NHS.  

Labour leader Ed Miliband and shadow health ministers Andy Burnham and Liz Kendall launched the document, a key cornerstone of the party’s 2015 general election manifesto, expected to be unveiled on Monday, in Leeds today.

Responding to the Conservatives’ manifesto pledge to provide a “minimum real terms increase in NHS funding of £8bn” by 2020, Labour called on the Conservatives to explain where the cash would come from.

Mr Miliband said: “The choice is clear: a funded Labour plan for more doctors, nurses and midwives or unfunded promises from a Tory party that has a record of breaking its word.

“The bottom line is this: you can’t fund the NHS on an IOU.”

Labour’s health manifesto confirms a number of flagship NHS commitments which the party has set out previously. They include plans to:

  • “Repeal the Health and Social Care Act to scrap David Cameron’s privatisation plans and put the right values back at the heart of the NHS”.
  • Impose a profit cap on private providers of NHS “clinical services”.
  • Inject up to an extra £2.5bn a year to pay for 20,000 more nurses, 8,000 more GPs, 5,000 more careworkers and 3,000 more midwives.
  • Make health and wellbeing boards “a vehicle for system leadership”.
  • “Improve access to a GP by guaranteeing appointments within 48 hours, or on the same day for those who need it”.
  • Other key polices include “putting in place an ‘NHS preferred provider’ framework, to ensure that the NHS is not destabilised by market competition”; place tougher controls on hospitals’ ability to raise private patient income, in order to ensure NHS patients always get put first; and “ensure that by 2020 no-one waits longer than one week for vital cancer tests”.

Labour also extended its promise to boost the number of midwives to a pledge that a Labour government would ensure every woman giving birth would receive care from a designated midwife to ensure that they are never left alone.

The health manifesto launch followed the Conservatives pledging to meet the funding commitments set out in the NHS Five Year Forward View

The document by the national leadership of the NHS published in October said additional resources worth more than 1.5 per cent a year in real terms over the next parliament were needed to bridge a £30bn funding gap.

The plans also require the NHS to find around £22bn of efficiency savings, a target many NHS finance experts feel is unrealistic. 

Chancellor George Osborne wrote in The Guardian: “I can confirm that in the Conservative manifesto next week we will commit to a minimum real terms increase in NHS funding of £8bn in the next five years.”

He added: “That is a minimum of £8bn over and above the £2bn down payment that I announced in the autumn statement last year. 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.”

Nuffield Trust chief executive Nigel Edwards said it was “regrettable” that “Labour are now the only party” not to have committed to the £8bn spending pledge required by the NHS Five Year Forward View.

He added: “The NHS already has a plan setting out how it needs to reform over the next five years, which has been endorsed by all leading organisations in the sector.  But NHS England’s Five Year Forward View is not mentioned in Labour’s mini manifesto, which is regrettable. 

“It would be greatly welcomed if all major parties could reach a consensus on this required funding so that the NHS can go into the next parliament with certainty about its future.”

King’s Fund chief executive Chris Ham told the Today programme that there seems to be an “emerging political consensus” around the £8bn funding pledge for the NHS, but the question now is whether Labour will also match that offer – a challenged they have not taken.

Labour launches NHS manifesto amid funding plans row with Tories