Labour or the Tories must invest £8bn a year on the NHS by 2020 if they want the Lib Dem’s support in a coalition agreement, deputy prime minister Nick Clegg told party activists in Manchester today.
The announcement joins three other ‘red line’ policies which the party says will be non-negotiable conditions in any coalition deal, just before a possible hung parliament next week.
The Conservatives have already promised to pledge £8bn a year, but have not yet released how it will be funded.
Labour has pledged £2.5bn, raised through a mansion tax imposed on properties worth £2m and a levy on the profits from tobacco companies.
Nick Clegg said he felt ‘very strongly’ about improving mental health as he criticised the other parties for failing to match their pledge.
He said: “If you love the NHS so much, put your money where your heart is. That’s what the Liberal Democrats have done.
“We have set out exactly how we will raise every penny of the money the NHS needs to survive. We won’t allow the NHS to flatline. So this is a red line for us. A pre-condition for government.”
The pledge follows the Chief Executive of the NHS Simon Steven’s estimation that there could be a £30bn gap between NHS spending and funding by 2020. His report predicted that £22bn could be recovered from ‘efficiency savings’ but that £8bn was needed in extra funding from government.
The Liberal Democrats say that their extra funding will be paid for through changes to the tax system and once the books are balanced in 2017/18, through growth.
Under the new policy, treatment for mental health problems will be given similarly to physical health problems with maximum waiting times introduced for mental health services.
This means a maximum six-week wait for depression therapy, and patients suffering psychosis will begin receiving treatment within two weeks.