The NHS is our most prized national asset. The principle of a health service free at the point of need, so that health outcomes do not depend on an individual’s capacity to afford treatment, is a core liberal ideal that I will never cease to defend.
Our health service is currently under unprecedented strain, due in large part to a funding crisis manufactured by those who wish to undermine its core social contract. We can’t control how many people get sick or what treatments they need, but we can ensure that the NHS is properly funded in order to deliver world-class healthcare to every patient. It is a lie that the NHS is unnaffordable or unsustainable – numerous recent studies have demonstrated that the NHS is one of the most economically efficient healthcare services in the developed world, delivering better care at a lower per capita cost than almost every other western nation.
The Liberal Democrats are the only party with a credible plan to meet the NHS funding gap, committing to an £8bn real terms increase in the annual NHS budget by the end of the next parliament. This is in line with the figures put forward by NHS Chief Executive, Simon Stevens, in his five-year forward view.
At the heart of Liberal Democrat health policy is a commitment to prioritising patient outcomes and standards of care. Whilst not totally ideologically opposed to the role of private contractors in the provision of NHS services, I do share the concerns of many members of the public that increasing private involvement in the NHS is not currently working as we were promised it would. I believe the time has come to call for a comprehensive review of private provision in the NHS, so that we can properly assess where this is and is not working to the benefit of both patients and the tax payer.