Chancellor George Osborne has said the Conservative will commit to a minimum real terms increase in NHS funding of £8bn by 2020, meanwhile Labour has published its “health manifesto” - a key cornerstone of the party’s 2015 general election manifesto

The two main parties made high profile NHS election pledges this weekend, the essential stories are:

4.15pm Commenting on Labour’s health manifesto, Nuffield Trust chief executive Nigel Edwards said “many of the principles behind these proposals are entirely sensible and are to be welcomed…But the level of detail set out in this document is somewhat concerning”.

He said: “There is a risk that elements of this detailed approach could trigger further reorganisation within the health service.”

He 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. 

“The Forward View clearly implies that a minimum of £8bn extra money is needed, along with significant and stretching efficiency savings, to enable the NHS to break even by 2020. Anything less than this amount is likely to have serious consequences for the viability of the service in future. 

“Labour are now the only party not to have committed to this £8bn and yet their proposals are likely to require more, not less, spending on the NHS. 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.”

2.45pm HSJ correspondent James Illman also notes:

2.42pm HSJ editor Alastair McLellan has made this observation about the competing parties’ competing NHS announcements today:

2.31pm David Cameron has made an appearance at the local hospital in his Witney constituency today, and briefly discussed the Conservative’s NHS £8bn funding pledge.

He said: “We will fund, in full, the NHS’ own plan for its expansion - the Stevens plan - and that means a minimum of £8bn a year by the end of the next parliament.

“Why are we doing this? Because I think the NHS is so essential. It’s always been there for me and my family, and I want there for everyone’s family.

“I want to see an NHS that’s continuing to expand, to improve, to provide great care, to save more lives, to do the great things it does in our country.

“We promised to increase funding every year for the last parliament and we did. We’re making this new promise, this new guarantee, for the next parliament, to fund the Simon Stevens plan, and make sure our great NHS gets even greater.”

The Prime Minister tweeted:


2.13pm 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 heath 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 “minimum real terms increase in NHS funding of £8bn” by 2020, Labour called on the Conservatives to explain where the cash would come from.  

Labour leader Ed 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.”

You can read the full story here.

2.03pm Another commitment from the Labour health manifesto: “By 2020, the next Labour Government will guarantee a maximum one-week wait for cancer tests and results, on route to a goal of a one-week maximum wait for all urgent diagnostic tests by 2025.

“This guarantee will be funded by investing £150 million extra a year in diagnostic capacity, matched by revenue raised through a new levy on tobacco firms.”

1.57pm The document describes a “change of role” for the foundation trust regulator Monitor - “driving
integration by focussing on the viability of whole health economies, rather than just the individual organisations within them”.

1.55pm To achieve “whole person care”, the document states that a Labour government would “introduce powerful new rights in the NHS Consitution”.

These rights include all people with complex needs being entitled to have a personalised care plan and a “single point of contact for all their care needs” and “the option of a persional budget where appropriate”.

“We will allow patients an carers access to their records and communicate with services online, making it easier for people to manage their own conditions and stay at home for longer,” the document adds.

1.47pm The document also states that a Labour government would repeal the market framework, “removing the role of Monitor and the Competition and Markets Authority as economic regulators enforcing competition, and
scrapping the ‘Section 75’ regulations that have effectively made tendering statutory”.

“This will be replaced with an ‘NHS Preferred Provider’ framework, to ensure that the NHS is not destabilised by market competition, and we will draw a clear distinction between not-for-profit and for-profit providers by giving
voluntary sector organisations the benefit of longer and more stable arrangements,” the document adds.

“Labour’s repeal Bill will legislate to ensure NHS services are fully protected from EU procurement and competition law, and we will ensure the NHS is protected from the TTIP treaty.”

1.45pm On the subject of private sector involvement in the NHS, Labour’s health manifesto states: “There is a limited role for independent sector organisations in providing services where there are gaps in delivery or where the NHS cannot provide a particular service.

“But that must be in a role supporting the public NHS - not to replace it and break it up. On those occasions where private companies are involved in providing clinical services, Labour will impose a cap on the profits they can make from the NHS to ensure resources are spent on patient care.”

1.40pm Jeremy Hunt also tweeted this about Labour’s record on the NHS:

1.39pm Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has tweeted:

1.30pm Some of the key points outlined in the Labour’s health manifesto are:

  • Recruit 20,000 more nurses and 8,000 more GPs, paid for through a £2.5 billion Time to Care Fund, funded by a mansion tax on properties worth over £2 million, tackling tax avoidance and a levy on tobacco firms
  • Guarantee a GP appointment within 48 hours and on the same day for those
    who need it
  • Guarantee a maximum one-week wait for cancer tests and create a new Cancer Treatments Fund to improve
    access to drugs, radiotherapy and surgery
  • Join up services from home to hospital with a single point of contact for those who need it - bringing together physical health, mental health and social care
  • Improve access to mental health support, with a new right to talking therapies enshrined in the NHS Constitution - just as people currently have a right to drugs and medical
  • Tackle the scandal of 15 minute care slots, recruit 5,000 new care workers to help provide care for those with the greatest needs at home, andintroduce a new system of safety checks for vulnerable older people
  • Ensure that when changes are proposed to local hospital services, patients and the public have a seat around the table from the very start, helping design and decide on plans for change
  • 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

1.20pm Labour has now released its “health manifesto”, a key aspect of the party’s 2015 general election manifesto. You can download the full document here on HSJ Live.

1.13pm Responding to Labour’s announcement that it would offer one-to-one maternity care for every woman during labour and birth by funding 3,000 additional midwives, Jon Skewes, director for policy, employment relations and communications at the Royal College of Midwives, said: “We welcome this announcement of Labour’s new manifesto and its pledge to guarantee one-to-one care for every woman giving birth.

“The RCM is very pleased to see the clear and specific commitment to 3,000 more NHS midwives: this figure corresponds with the RCM’s own research into the necessary increase of midwives to ensure NHS maternity services can offer good care to women.

“So long as the birth-rate does not start to rise again, these extra midwives could potentially eliminate England’s longstanding midwifery shortage, which would be a big achievement. As many as one in four women report being left alone and worried during labour and immediately after giving birth, and this is an issue which will hopefully be resolved by the necessary increase in staff numbers.

“Welcome as today’s commitment is, it will also be important to ensure that community midwifery services are also properly staffed. In addition to having one-to-one care during childbirth, women should also get the midwifery support they need during pregnancy and in the days following the birth of their child.”

1.09pm Responding to the Conservative Party’s £8bn NHS funding pledge, Labour leader Ed Miliband said: “We have seen five years of failure and broken promises from David Cameron on the NHS and now he expects the public to believe unfunded promises four weeks before an election.

“Just in January he said and I quote “the real risk to the NHS was the risk of unfunded spending commitments bringing chaos to our economy, which would wreck our NHS.”

“The truth is you can’t save the NHS if you don’t know where the money is coming from.

“You can only damage the NHS when they are planning colossal cuts in public spending year after year after year.

“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.”

1.07pm Sky political correspondent Sophy Ridge also tweets:

1.05pm BBC correspondent Lucy Manning, reporting from Labour’s health manifesto launch in Yorkshire, has tweeted:

12.40pm BBC political correspondent Iain Watson has tweeted this from the Labour’s health manifesto launch event in Yorkshire:

12.35pm Labour has also published a video of David Cameron telling the House of Commons that the “the real risk to the NHS is the risk of unfunded spending commitments, bringing chaos to our economy, which would wreck our NHS”:

12.23pm The launch of Labour’s health manifesto is now underway.

Speaking at the launch in Leeds, shadow health secretary Andy Bunham has reiterated that a Labour government would repeal the Health and Social Care Act 2012.

12.09pm Ahead of the immanent launch of Labour’s health manifesto this afternoon, take a read through HSJ’s handy guide to the party’s health policy development.

11.55am Labour are shortly due to launch its “health manifesto” – a key cornerstone of the party’s 2015 general election manifesto, expected to be unveiled on Monday.

Leader Ed Miliband and shadow heath ministers Andy Burnham and Liz Kendall are launching the flagship policy document at a press conference in Leeds on Saturday morning.

Every woman giving birth would receive care from a designated midwife to ensure that they are never left alone under a Labour government, which would be enshrined in the NHS Constitution, Ed Miliband will reportedly pledge today.​

The policy would involve hiring 3,000 new midwifes, funded by Labour’s proposed £2.5bn “Time to Care” fund.

Announcing the policy, Mr Miliband will say: “When our two sons were born we received brilliant care from NHS midwives. I know how important this is for mothers, for babies – and for fathers too – at this special but nerve-wracking time for families.

“But too often staff shortages in the NHS means nurses, doctors and midwives feel they don’t have the time to offer the care that they want  – and families need.  

‘Call the midwife’ shouldn’t just be a TV programme from the past but part of our NHS future too. We need to ensure the NHS can offer every woman the personalised one-to-one care we expect from a modern and thriving health service.  

“Our fully-funded plan will provide the extra staff including midwives needed to give them the time to care. Because it is time to care for our NHS.”

11.44am Responding to the Conservative’s NHS funding pledge, Labour’s shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Chris Leslie said: “Nobody will believe a word of this. The Tories have tried to announce this five times before, but they still can’t say where the money would come from. And they haven’t been able to say how they will pay for any of their panicky promises over the last 24 hours.

“George Osborne’s extreme plan to double the pace of spending cuts next year means he cannot credibly claim to protect the NHS. Other countries which have tried to make cuts on this scale have ended up cutting their health services. That’s why he wasn’t able to announce any extra NHS funding in his Budget last month

“And the Tories have £10 billion of unfunded tax promises which they also can’t say how they will pay for and are ahead of the NHS in the queue.

“Only Labour has a fully-funded plan to raise an extra £2.5bn a year to recruit 20,000 more nurses, 8,000 more GPs and 3,000 more midwives – paid for by a mansion tax on properties over £2m, closing tax loopholes and a levy on the tobacco companies.

“As Ed Balls has said, Labour will do whatever it takes to save our NHS. But after their broken promises of the last five years, nobody will trust the Tories with our NHS ever again.”

11.25am In response to the Conservative funding announcement, Royal College of GPs chair Maureen Baker said: “Hard pressed family doctors will welcome any announcement to improve access and ensure that patients can get a GP appointment more quickly – as long as commitments to extra funding for general practice and thousands more GPs are actually delivered.

“We must also ensure that those patients needing speedy access are able to get it, whatever their age, whilst also recognising that for some older people with long term conditions it will be their ability to see the doctor of their choice that will be more important. 

“We are pleased that our warnings about the severe shortage of GPs and the immense workload pressures we are under seem to be getting through to the political parties in the run-up to the election, and that a new deal for general practice and patient care could become a reality.

“Over 90% of all patient contacts within the NHS are managed in general practice - for only 8.4% of the budget in England.

“GPs are now seeing over 370m patients a year – 70m more than five years ago and 150,000 extra patients per day – and some are routinely working 11-hour days to try and meet demand.

“General practice is the cornerstone of the NHS and we urgently need more funding – 11% of the NHS budget – and at least 8,000 more GPs in England over the next Parliament to ensure that all our patients can see a GP when they need to and that they receive the care they deserve.

“Pledges and promises might win votes but we need substance, not sound bites, and the stakes are too high for politicians not to deliver.”

11.07am Health policy consultant Ben Nunn tweets:

10.56am Vale of York CCG chair Professor Alan Maynard tweets:

10.47am HSJ senior correspondent David Williams tweets:

10.45am Sky political correspondent Sophy Ridge also notes:

10.43am Sunday Times deputy political editor James Lyons makes this observation:

10.35am Also tweeted by the Labour Party:

10.30am The Labour Party has tweeted:

10.26am Sky political editor Faisal Islam makes this observation on the Conservatives’ NHS funding pledge:

10.10am You can now read HSJ’s full story on the Conservatives’ £8bn NHS funding commitment.

9.57am Care services minister Norman Lamb told BBC Radio 5Live that the Conservatives are “trying to pull the wool over the British public’s eyes”.

“It’s easy to say you want to support the NHS, the difficult part is saying how you will pay for it. As Nick Clegg said, the NHS doesn’t need warm words, it needs hard cash,” he said.

9.43am The New Stateman’s political editor George Eaton writes that the Conservatives believe they are able to make an “unfunded” promise for greater NHS funding based on the strength of their economic reputation.

He argues: “One might expect the Tories, who have long prided themselves on their reputation for fiscal responsibility, to avoid making such reckless and unfunded pledges. But the reverse is the case.

“Indeed, it is precisely because polls show that they are trusted to manage the public finances that they think they can get away with such promises. To do otherwise, they believe, would be to waste one of their most precious political assets.

“Unlike Labour, forced to cost every spending commitment in a bid to combat its profligate reputation, they can play fast and loose. When asked where the money will come from, their reply is essentially “just trust us”.”

9.38am Meanwhile, health select committee chair Sarah Wollaston tweets:

9.35am Labour health minister Luciana Berger has tweeted:

9.30am BBC economics editor Robert Peston has made this observation about the Conservative’s NHS funding promise, which Jeremy Hunt likened to Tony Blair’s pledge to increase funding for the health service in 2000:

9.22am Here’s HSJ correspondent Shaun Lintern’s take on the £8bn NHS funding pledge:

9.20am Tax researcher Richard Murphy tweets:

9.03am Speaking on the Today programme Jeremy Hunt also said the “biggest risk” to NHS funding ould be to “tear up the economic plan” for the country.

8.55am Here is an observation from King’s Fund chief executive Chris Ham about the Conservatives’ NHS funding pledge, speaking on the Today Programme:

8.50am King’s Fund senior fellow David Buck senior fellow has made this observation on the NHS Five Year Forward View £bn funding demand:

8.46am Jeremy Hunt also compared the Conservatives’ funding pledge to Tony Blair’s pledge to increase NHS funding in 2000.

8.43am Jeremy Hunt: “Look at the evidence at the what has happened to the British economy, because in the end a strong NHS needs a strong economy.”

8.40am Asked about the Conservatives’ previous commitment not to have a top-down reorganisation of the NHS. Hunt accepts it was “unpopular decision” and a “difficult decision” but as a result of that decision the NHS has “weathered the storm” and there are greater staff on the frontline.

8.39am Hunt is grilled on where the additional NHS funding will come from. He is asked whether this is based on the assumption that the enonomy will grow to the position where the government afford it.

8.37am Jeremy Hunt: “This is not a blank cheque for the NHS.”

8.35am Jeremy Hunt is now speaking on the Today programme.

8.15am HSJ bureau chief Crispin Dowler previously made this observation about what backing the Five Year Forward’s View NHS funding demand means in practice:

8.06am Here is Lord Ashcroft’s take on the Conservative funding pledge:

8.03am 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.

7.58am Liz Kendall: “This isn’t just a matter of money, we’ve got to change the way services work.”

7.57am Asked about the Conservatives’ £8bn funding pledge, Ms Kendall said:”It’s not worth the paper it’s written on.”

Labour is “the only party that has committed additional funding for the NHS that is properly sourced,” she added.

“We will do whatever it takes to get the NHS the money that it needs… but we don’t think it is right to make fantasy funding promises.”

7.55am Speaking on the Today prgramme, Liz Kendall said: “we know that personalised 1t1 care makes for safer births [ad] fewer cesareans.”

“We really to chage the way services work and reform them, ot just put the money in.”

7.52am Shadow care minister Liz Kendall is now speaking on the Today programme.

7.47am Prime Minister David Cameron has tweeted:

7.30am Discussing the NHS Five Year Forward View, Mr Osborne said: “We back the NHS’s plan , but there’s no point having a plan without the funding to deliver it, so today we commit to deliver what the NHS needs.”

7.25am Writing in The Guardian, chancellor George Osborne said: “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.

“And we have done that at the same time as halving the deficit as a share of GDP and cutting income tax for 26 million people. In the next parliament we will continue with the same balanced approach.”

12:01am: Trailing today’s expected health announcements, The Times reports Labour and the Conservatives will trade blows on the NHS today with both offering health-related pledges.

The paper reports Labour leader Ed Miliband will pledge today 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.

This is an extension of a pledge made by the Labour leader at the party’s conference in September when he announced a”£2.5bn NHS Time to Care Fund”, additional cash for the NHS, would be used to pay for 3,000 midwives, as well 20,000 more nurses, 8,000 more GP and 5,000 more careworkers. About £138m will be used to fund the midwives pledge according to The Times’ report.  

Prime minister David Cameron will meanwhile commit to giving same-day access to a GP for all patients aged 75 and over, The Times reports.

Mr Cameron will also refresh his party’s pledge to provide an extra £8bn in the final year of the next parliament, a requirement based on funding forecasts set out in the NHS Five Year Forward View to help plug the £30bn funding shortfall by 2020.

The Conservatives have refused to spell out what funding would be available before then but, The Times surmises, it will nevertheless rachet up the pressure on Labour to commit to the spending requirements.   

You can follow us here on the HSJ Live blog for live updates and reactions to the announcements.

In the meantime, here’s HSJ’s quick guide to Labour’s health policy development in the run up to next month’s general election so far:

Other flagship NHS pledges made by Labour in the run up to the election include: