William Eichler 08 May 2017

Opposition parties announce plans to save ‘struggling’ health and care system

Labour and the Liberal Democrats have announced their manifesto commitments to save the UK’s struggling health and social care sector, and tackle childhood obesity.

Labour said they would make Britain’s children the ‘healthiest in the world’ by ring-fencing the public health budget and investing in measures to tackle obesity.

And the Lib Dems have laid out a five-point recovery plan to make the NHS the ‘envy’ of the world, funded by an income tax hike.

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s shadow health secretary, will set out the party’s plans to combat health inequalities and end what he described as the ‘scandalous link’ between deprivation and children’s health.

He promised a Labour Government would ring-fence the public health budget over the course of the Parliament to allow councils to invest in leisure activities and health awareness campaigns.

Mr Ashworth also said they would introduce a new index of child health to measure progress against international standards and report annually against four key indicators: obesity, dental health, under 5s, and mental health.

Under a Labour administration, all Government departments would be legally required to have a child health strategy to set out how they would contribute to improving child health.

The shadow health secretary also said school nurses and health visitors would be supported to make sure that all children have access to the healthcare they are entitled to. There will also be extra funding for child and adolescent mental health services and support for counselling in every school.

There will be a £250m annual child health fund to support the strategy, paid for by ‘clamping down’ on management consultancy costs in the NHS.

As part of their plan to tackle childhood obesity, Labour also pledged to ban adverts promoting unhealthy food from being broadcast during primetime television.

‘When it comes to our children we should be ambitious. It’s time we invested properly in the health of the next generation,’ Mr Ashworth said.

‘That means the sort of bold action we are outlining today to tackle obesity and invest in mental health provision.

‘Labour will put children at the heart of our health strategy and put measures in place to make Britain’s children the healthiest in the world.’

The Liberal Democrats also made health the subject of their first manifesto commitment.

On Saturday, they announced they would invest an extra £6bn a year in the NHS and social care system. This would be paid for by an immediate 1p rise on all rates of income tax.

They also promised their manifesto would contain a ‘five-point recovery plan’ for NHS and social care services.

As well as their plans to raise income tax and ring-fence the extra money for the NHS and social care sector (points 1 and 2), they said they would introduce a dedicated health and care tax, that would be shown on people’s payslips.

They would also establish a cross-party health and care convention that would promote a sustainable and integrated health and care system, and an independent office of health and care funding to monitor health and care budgets.

‘The NHS was once the envy of the world and this plan is the first step in restoring it to where it should be,’ said the Lib Dem shadow secretary of state for health, Norman Lamb.

‘A penny on the pound to save the NHS is money well spent in our view.

‘Simply providing more money on its own is not enough and that’s why this is just the first step in our plan to protect health and care services long-term."

‘We also need to do much more to keep people fit and healthy and out of hospital, and that is why this new funding will be targeted to those areas that have the greatest impact on patient care such as social care, general practice, mental health and public health.’

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