The Liberal Democrats have pledged to inject £35 billion into the NHS and social care over the next five years.
The party said in its manifesto, published yesterday, that it will raise £7 billion a year by adding a penny on income tax.
It has committed to use this cash to relieve the crisis in social care, tackle urgent workforce shortages and invest in mental health and prevention services.
On top of this, the party has announced a £10 billion capital fund to upgrade equipment, ambulances, hospitals and other NHS buildings to bring them into the 21st Century.
Announcing the policy, Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Social Care Luciana Berger (pictured) said: “The NHS is struggling to cope with severe staff shortages, chronic underfunding and crumbling hospital buildings. All of these problems would be made much worse by a Tory or Labour Brexit that would end free movement and make it harder to attract nurses and doctors from the EU.
“The Liberal Democrats will build a brighter future by stopping Brexit, and we will put a penny on income tax to raise an extra £35 billion for the NHS and social care.
“We are the only party with a credible plan to protect the NHS, by tackling the staffing crisis, investing in mental health services, social care, public health and making our NHS buildings fit for the 21st century.”
Ms Berger also repeated the party’s claim that stopping Brexit will also relieve chronic staffing shortages and save the social care system.
In the longer term, the Liberal Democrats have promised to commission the development of a dedicated Health and Care Tax, offset by other tax reductions, on the basis of consultation with the public.
The intention is to bring together spending on both services into a collective budget and set out transparently, on people’s payslips, what the government is spending on health and social care.
The party said it will also establish a cross-party health and social care convention that builds on the existing body of work from previous conventions, select committees and the 2018 citizens’ assembly to reach agreement on the long-term sustainable funding of a joined-up system of health and social care.
It said introducing a cap on the cost of care, “not so far delivered by the Conservatives”, would be a key starting point for Liberal Democrat participants.
In addition, the party promises to introduce a statutory independent budget monitoring body for health and care, similar to the Office Budget Responsibility. This would report every three years on how much money the system needs to deliver safe and sustainable treatment and care, and how much is needed to meet the costs of projected increases in demand.
Steven Cameron, Pensions Director at Aegon, said: “No political manifesto would be complete right now without something on tackling the huge social care funding crisis. The Lib Dems offer a very helpful promise to cap how much an individual has to pay, putting pressure on other political parties to follow suit, although it remains to be seen if 1p extra in income tax will come close to bridging the funding gap even as a short term measure.”
Michael Voges, Executive Director of ARCO, said: “We welcome the focus of the Lib Dem manifesto on social care and on looking for a long-term solution to the funding challenges.
“We would however encourage all parties to go further and to look at the key role that housing with care can play in supporting social care provision. A brighter future for Britain must be one in which more older people can enjoy a better lifestyle in their retirement and have peace of mind that they can be as independent and well cared for as possible.”