Labour promises to outdo Boris Johnson's NHS spending pledge with £26bn 'rescue plan'

Posted On: 
12th November 2019

Labour has pledged to pump £26bn extra into the NHS as part of a wide-ranging "rescue plan" if the party wins the general election.

Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth (right) will launch the plan alongside Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell on Wednesday.
Credit: 
PA

In a major policy announcement aimed at undermining a key Conservative campaign promise, Labour said it would inject £26bn in real terms into the health service over the next five years.

The move comes after the Tories vowed to spend £20bn extra on the NHS over the same period, with Boris Johnson also promising a string of hospital upgrades since becoming Prime Minister. 

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Announcing the move at a speech in London on Wednesday, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell is expected to say the UK's "world-class" health service "needs proper funding".

"Labour’s policies to tax the richest in society and invest for the future through our Social Transformation Fund mean we will be able to improve millions of lives," he will claim.

"And ending privatisation means that money can be spent on healthcare rather than dividends for Boris Johnson’s friends in the private healthcare industry."

Labour said the additional cash would be used to improve the quality of care, recruit thousands more staff, and rebuild "crumbling facilities".

Under Labour's plans, the Department of Health and Social Care's budget will rise by 4.3% by 2023-24, while NHS England's budget will also receive an uplift in a bid to tackle waiting times and cancer survival rates.

It said the plan would see NHS capital spending - which includes investment in hospital buildings and equipment - rise "to the international average" with a £15bn boost.

A further £1bn will be allocated to training and education budgets and £1bn will doled out to boost public health services, which are aimed to stopping people from getting ill in the first place.

The party is also offering NHS trusts extra cash if they reduce their carbon footprint under plans for a 'Green New Deal', and there are pledges for fresh investment in CT and MRI scanners, GPs' surgeries, and mental health support services.

The party added: "This is over £6bn in real terms more than the funding announced by the Tories last year."

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth - appearing alongside Mr McDonnell - is expected to say: "A decade of Tory underfunding and cuts has driven our NHS into year round crisis. Over 15,000 beds have been cut, hospitals are crumbling and our NHS is chronically short of nurses and family doctors. 

"Just last week we all were shocked by the heart-breaking image of an 88 year old woman, left languishing for hours and hours on a trolley in a hospital corridor.

"With experts warning this winter is set to be one of the worst the truth is our NHS is crying out for a financial rescue plan to deliver real change for patients."

'VITAL'

Non-partisan health service think tank the King's Fund welcomed the promised cash uplift, calling it a "welcome recognition of the additional resources needed to meet the pressures on the NHS".

Chief executive Richard Murray said: "The funding pledge importantly covers not only day-to-day NHS running costs, but other vital areas of health spending such as money for buildings and equipment, the education and training of staff and public health services to improve and maintain people’s health."

But he added: "The success of any NHS funding policy will rest on the ability to recruit and retain enough workers to staff NHS services. Labour’s pledge to reinstate a training bursary for nurses is welcome, although it will be critical to focus on retaining existing NHS staff over the next few years, at a time when many are leaving the service due to the intensity of their workload.

"For many UK voters the distinction between the NHS and social care is unclear, and many are surprised to find that social care is not free at the point of use. The current social care system is not fit for purpose and is failing the people who rely on it. A key test for party manifestos will be whether they include plans for fundamental reform of social care funding."

NHS spending will form a key battleground in the run-up to the December 12 snap poll.

The Conservatives announced last year that they would make an additional £20.5bn available to the NHS in England by 2023/24.

Boris Johnson also used his first weeks in office to pledge a further £1.8bn for NHS hospitals, although it later emerged that some of the money was already being held in reserve by health trusts, with the Treasury loosening spending restrictions it had imposed on them.

Twenty hospitals in England have been earmarked for a funding boost under the plans, with the Prime Minister also vowing to "drastically reduce" GP waiting lists.

Labour has meanwhile claimed that Conservative plans for a post-Brexit trade deal with the United States could drive up the cost of medicines and cost the NHS up to £500m a week - a figure that assumes overall spending on drugs would more than double to US levels in any tie-up.