UK Politics

Election 2015: Labour in 'double danger' warning on NHS

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Media captionEd Miliband pledges 20,000 more nurses in the NHS

Labour are accusing the Conservatives of a "double deceit" over their health policies as they begin a week of campaigning on the future of the NHS.

Ed Miliband said Conservative spending plans would result in cuts to public services doubling next year.

And he claimed David Cameron was "not being straight" on how he intended to pay for £8bn a year in extra funding.

The Tories say they will fund in full NHS England's needs by 2020, stressing their record on investment since 2010.

The future of the health service is a key election battleground, with Labour arguing that services have deteriorated markedly under the coalition government and the Conservatives defending their record on staff recruitment and funding for drugs.

'Extreme plans'

Speaking in Scotland, Labour leader Ed Miliband contrasted his party's guarantee of £2.5bn a year in extra funding for the health service with his opponents' plans.

Labour say they will recruit thousands of new nurses, doctors and midwives as part of a "time to care fund", paid for by the proceeds of a tax on properties worth more than £2m, a levy on tobacco companies and closing tax loopholes for hedge funds and other city funds.

"The Tory plans on the NHS are a double deceit," Mr Miliband told the Scottish Trade Union Congress.

"They are not being straight about their extreme plans to double the cuts to public services next year.

"And they are not being straight when they promise to protect the NHS, but cannot say where a penny of additional money will come from.

"This double deceit is a double danger to the NHS. They have extreme spending plans and they can't tell us where the money is coming from.

"David Cameron poses a risk to the very fabric and foundation of our NHS. That's why we will fight every day to 7 May to stop a Tory plan that threatens our NHS. And it's why we have a different approach. A fully funded plan."

Speaking to the BBC, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said people were waiting longer to be seen at accident and emergency than at any point in the past decade and the NHS would soon be "unrecognisable" if the Conservatives were re-elected.

'In tatters'

David Cameron has said NHS budgets will be protected from spending cuts in the next Parliament, pointing to the £7.5bn that was invested in the health service between 2011 and 2015 when the health service received real-terms increases in funding.

Senior Conservatives have said they will pay for the £8bn in above-inflation funding which NHS England says it needs to pay for its modernisation programme by 2020, suggesting the upturn in the economy will make extra investment possible.

But Labour says the Conservatives' plans for £30bn in cuts in the first three years of the next Parliament will mean substantial reductions in spending for social care and other services integral to the performance of the NHS.

Conservative Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Labour's campaign was "bizarre". He tweeted: "They claim NHS is on life support yet still the only party to refuse to fund the £8bn NHS says it needs."

The Tories, who have questioned whether Labour's plans will raise £2.5bn a year, said Mr Burnham had been asked on multiple occasions to match the Conservatives' £8bn funding pledge but had "refused".

"This marks a new low in Ed Miliband's desperate attempts to weaponise the NHS," a Conservative spokeswoman said. "His credibility on health is in tatters because he refuses to fund the £8bn the NHS needs.

"By building a stronger economy, we have protected and improved the NHS with 9,500 more doctors, 6,900 more nurses, and 1.3 million more life-saving operations every year."

And the Lib Dems urged Labour to "put their money where their mouth is".

"Neither Labour nor the Tories have a credible response to the funding challenges that the NHS faces," said the party's health spokesman Norman Lamb.

"Labour are unwilling to commit the £8bn needed and the Tories refuse to say how they will find the money."

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