The Conservatives’ election manifesto will commit to a “minimum real terms increase in NHS funding of £8bn” by 2020 which they say is a firm promise to fund the NHS Five Year Forward View.
Health experts said the pledge raised pressure on Labour, which is itself set to make a significant announcement on the NHS today, to match the funding commitment.
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.”
The pledge to meet the funding commitments set out in the NHS Five Year Forward View was originally made by health secretary Jeremy Hunt in March, although questions remain around where the funding will come from and how it will be rolled out.
Labour has accused the Conservatives making “fantasy funding promises” and called on the government to spell out how it would fund the pledge, rather than just cite economic growth, a line all Conservative ministers are sticking to today.
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 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 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.
The £8bn of extra funding target has been extrapolated from the forward view.
The document by the national leadership of the NHS published in October said the health service will need additional resources worth more than 1.5 per cent 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.
Labour launches NHS manifesto amid funding plans row with Tories
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Conservatives confirm extra £8bn for NHS in manifesto pledge