Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has said he wants to 'slant the playing field in favour of GPs working in the most deprived areas'.

At a speech to the King's Fund think tank, he promised that his party would give GPs greater rewards for treating people with the most severe health needs by offering a "patient premium".

Speaking to HSJ afterwards, he admitted the Liberal Democrats had not yet decided upon the finer details of the proposals but said they were "definitely do-able". He believed the proposals would go down well with voters, who were not so "bleak and selfish" that they could not recognise higher life expectancies were better for everyone - and cost less.

"It seems logical to be able to say that if we are able to get GPs on the ground in large numbers in the most deprived areas, you are actually creating a health service which will be more efficient [and] cheaper," he said.

He called for a pilot scheme of individual budgets for people with mental illness to give them greater control over their treatment.

"I find it one of the most distressing things to see the most vulnerable people almost cruelly being sent from pillar to post when the last thing they need is to be drugged up to the eyeballs and told to wait three years to see somebody," he said.

Mr Clegg reiterated proposals to give patients entitlement to treatment within a certain time - with providers forced to pay for private care if they cannot deliver.