News 2005 UK election special

A kinder, gentler age

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 14 April 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:866
  1. Nicholas Timmins, public policy editor
  1. Financial Times

With the Liberal Democrats promising to extend free personal care to all UK elderly people and to let local authorities commission health services, Nick Timmins finds the party's approach has a quite different feel from those of its rivals

Voters contemplating their choice in the run up to the general election on 5 May—and wanting to base that decision on policies for the health service—could be forgiven if they thought that two different NHSs were being debated in the election campaign.

One battle, between the Conservatives and Labour, looks set to focus on allegations that the extra billions that have been poured into the NHS have been wasted, as well as focusing on waiting lists, access, choice, and, above all, the use of the private sector.

The other, being fought by the Liberal Democrats, has a rather different feel. The party's headline policy is the introduction in England and Wales of the free personal care for elderly people that the Scots already get. This policy would, on the Liberal Democrats' own costings, add more than £1.5bn ($2.8bn; €2.2bn) to spending next year and around £9bn over the full life of the parliament.

Beyond that, the Liberal Democrats promise to “fight …

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