Published: 11/4/2002, Volume II2, No. 5800 Page 6

The Liberal Democrats have called for increased NHS spending and better public accountability in an 'alternative Budget'.

The 'Budget' proposes an extra£5.47bn spent on health and social care, funded through a 50 per cent tax on earnings over£100,000.

Savings of£750m could be made by setting up a pharmaceutical agency to drive down drug and technology prices to more affordable levels. The document represents a shift in priorities for the party, which has put health instead of education at the top of its agenda. Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Matthew Taylor said: 'The alternative Budget allocates greater investment than we have ever proposed before to rebuilding a world-class NHS.'

The extra resources would be used to train more health professionals and reward low-paid NHS professionals with an extra£1,000 a year, he said. It would also fund more acute beds and better social care and long-term personal care.

Patients should have more choice, with the option to use the private sector if local services cannot deliver the treatment they need, the Liberal Democrats said.

They also said accountability should be increased by introducing elected representatives to acute and primary care trust boards.

www. libdems. org. uk