Labour and that £2.5 billion for the NHS

Money and a doctor Image copyright Science Photo Library

Almost every day of this campaign has seen a tussle between the parties over the billions of pounds they are pledging for the NHS in England.

Voters could be forgiven for scratching their heads.

Today it was Labour's turn to spell out more detail over the £2.5bn per year the party is earmarking for health if elected.

By way of a reminder, Labour says it will spend £2.5bn annually more than what the current government has planned.

The funding will come from a mansion tax, a levy on tobacco company profits and a crackdown on tax avoidance.

Labour's argument is that, unlike the other parties, it has earmarked these funding streams to cover higher spending on health.

Show me the money

We learned today that if Labour is in power after 7 May it expects to raise hundreds of millions before the end of this financial year.

The mansion tax and tobacco levy, it argues, will start generating revenue fairly quickly.

The full £2.5bn tax yield wont come in till 2016/17 at the earliest, but it's interesting Labour believes a chunk of it will be forthcoming this year.

But there are many imponderables about these assumptions by Labour.

How long will the legislation take to get through parliament? How many months of the year will be left to attempt tax collection?

How will the mansion tax work in practice? The financial jury will be out for a while.

Labour revealed more today about how it will spend the money.

New recruits

It wants to see an extra 1,000 places for nurse training in England created in time for the new academic year in September.

This is a first step in its longer term goal of recruiting an extra 20,000 nurses by 2020.

The Royal College of Nursing has said there are more applicants than places each year.

But forming a government in May and having new training places created and filled by September is a big ask.

Labour says the heads of training establishments have confirmed they could set up the extra nurse places.

The Council of Deans of Health say it would be a "stretch" to recruit nursing students at short notice, but if places were available they would do what they could to fill them.

Distributing the money to universities in a few months may well be possible, but not straightforward.

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have again criticised Labour for failing to sign up to the extra £8bn above inflation by 2020 requested by the head of NHS England Simon Stevens.

They have both said that, if in office, they will provide that sum, while not giving a lot of detail about how they would pay for it.

The Greens, UKIP and the National Health Action Party all in varying degrees have called for more investment in the NHS in England.

It may feel like a familiar debate.

But the latest IPSOS/MORI poll puts health some way ahead of the economy as the most important issue for voters.

The parties know that, hence their continued scrapping over who would invest what in the NHS.

There will be plenty more before polling day.

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