The new leader of the Liberal Democrats has outlined his party's proposals for all patients to be given a set of 'entitlements' to treatment, based on their condition.

Speaking to HSJ after a speech on public policy on Saturday, Nick Clegg said he wanted to emulate the Danish health system, where the state pays for private treatment for any patients whose entitlements were not met through the state system.

He said: "It's a simple but quite radical idea that's delivered one of the most progressive health systems and high satisfaction."

Mr Clegg also proposed individual budgets for patients with long-term conditions, including people with mental health problems, particularly those with non-acute illness.

He said that mental health would be a major focus for the party under his leadership.

"I think we will look back on the way we treated, or rather mistreated, people with mental health conditions in 50 years' time and ask ourselves what we were doing.

"I have seen the grotesque effects of having huge numbers of people with sometimes quite acute mental health conditions circling in and out of prisons year in, year out, without being treated."

Mr Clegg said his public policy speech and the debate that followed would shape the party's manifesto.

The party will publish a specific paper on its plans for the health service next week.

For more analysis, see this week's editor's comment