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Labour promises new fund to provide 8000 more GPs

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g5864 (Published 24 September 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g5864
  1. Adrian O’Dowd
  1. 1London

A new annual “NHS Time to Care Fund” will be created if the Labour party wins the next general election, which will allow for 8000 more GPs to be recruited, Labour’s leader, Ed Miliband, has announced.

The £2.5bn (€3.2bn; $4.1bn) fund, which will come from introducing a new levy on tobacco companies, a £1.1bn clampdown on tax avoidance, and a “mansion tax” on houses worth more than £2m, will also fund 20 000 more nurses, 3000 more midwives, and 5000 more care workers, all by 2020. Giving his address to the party’s annual conference in Manchester on 23 September, Miliband promised that he would introduce the fund if Labour won next year’s general election.

The NHS was the focus of much of Miliband’s speech, in which he also promised to repeal the controversial Health and Social Care Act, which introduced the 2013 reorganisation of the NHS in England, including the creation of clinical commissioning groups led by GPs. Miliband said, “The NHS is sliding backwards under this government. They are privatising and fragmenting it. It is not safe in their hands. We built the NHS, we saved the NHS, we will repeal the Health and Social Care Act, and we will transform the NHS for the future.

“We will raise £1bn from tax avoidance, including by closing the loopholes for the hedge funds. We will use the proceeds from a tax on houses worth over £2m, and we will raise revenue from the tobacco companies who make soaring profits on the back of ill health.”

The NHS was struggling to cope with demand, he claimed, saying that a quarter of people had to wait a week or more for a GP appointment. “It is time to care about the NHS so that doctors, nurses, care workers, midwives are able to spend proper time with us—and not to be rushed off their feet,” he told delegates.

Labour’s planned package of tax avoidance would raise £1.1bn, while a further £150m a year would come from tobacco firms, and the mansion tax would raise around £1.4bn. Miliband said the fund would give doctors and nurses the time to care properly for patients, start to transform services in communities, help ensure safe staffing levels in hospitals, and allow for easy access to family doctors and community services.

Responding to the promises, the chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, Maureen Baker, who has warned the government over a potential exodus of GPs from the profession,1 said, “This announcement is a clear and impressive response to the crisis currently engulfing general practice and will be warmly welcomed by many GPs and practice nurses across the country. Today’s announcement, if translated into action, would help to pull general practice back from the brink of disaster and pave the way for a revitalised and refreshed GP service.”

Chris Ham, chief executive of the health think tank the King’s Fund, said, “Ed Miliband’s announcement on increased funding for the NHS shows politicians are now acknowledging the scale of the financial problem facing health and social care.

“A combination of a mansion tax, tobacco levy, and tax avoidance initiatives alone will not fill the growing funding gap. Today’s announcement is a significant step forward, but we will need to see Labour’s spending plans in full before we know whether they will be enough to meet the funding gap.”

Notes

Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g5864

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