Cameron to pledge above-inflation NHS funding for another five years

PM will go head-to-head with Labour on health in closing speech to Conservative conference

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The NHS budget in England would continue to rise for another five years if the Conservatives remain in power after next May’s general election, David Cameron will announce today.

In his closing speech to the Conservative Party conference, the Prime Minister will go head-to-head with Labour on health, in a departure from the Tories’ previous attempt to play down an issue on which Labour enjoys a big poll lead.  His pledge that the £100bn-a-year budget would  rise by more than inflation each year from  2015-20 will be seen as a response to Labour’s decision to put the NHS at the heart of its election campaign.  Some estimates suggest the NHS faces a £30bn black hole by 2020.

Yesterday Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, announced that every patient in England will be able to access their full medical history online from next April as he mounted a robust defence of the Government’s record on the NHS.

Mr Cameron’s decision to ring-fence health spending will put enormous pressure on other budgets, which could face cuts of 30 per cent after the election. They include the Home Office, Ministry of Justice and local government.  In the current parliament, schools and overseas aid are also ring-fenced.

The Prime Minister will tell the Birmingham conference:  “The next Conservative Government will protect the NHS budget and continue to invest more. Because we know this truth – something Labour will never understand and we will never forget – you can only have a strong NHS if you have a strong economy.”

Mr Cameron will say he understands the difference the NHS can make because of his son Ivan, who suffered from severe epilepsy and cerebral palsy and died aged six in 2009.  He will say that the drive to crack the DNA code, on which the NHS “leads the world”, could cure rare genetic diseases and save lives.

The Prime Minister will repeatedly describe his goal as “to make Britain a country that everyone is proud to call home.”  He will try to shift the debate away from austerity on to opportunity-for-all. “I didn’t come into politics to make lines on the graph go in the right direction,” he will say. “Not a free for all, but a chance for all.”  He will tell voters: “Our plan for the next five years will be about you, and your family –and helping you to get on.”

He  is expected to announce that the Tories would curtail the role of the European Court of Human Rights and  repeal Labour's Human Rights Act, to ensure the UK’s Supreme Court is the highest authority.

Under Mr Hunt’s  plan, patients will be able to look at doctors’ notes, test results and all the information held on them by the health service through a new website called MyNHS. The scheme,  the first of its type in the world, will also allow patients a clear path to researching their condition online as well as investigating different treatment options. All patients in England will be given a “named” GP who will coordinate all aspects of their care.

Mr Hunt told the Tory conference that for too long, patients had not been given enough information or given sufficient control over their care. “It isn't just information about your local hospital you want, it's information about you. So by April next year, every patient in England will be able to access their own medical record online. It means you be able to see it and show it to anyone you choose,” he said.

For the first time, Mr Hunt  took on directly Labour’s repeated claims that the Tories are “privatising” the NHS - insisting that everything the Government did was in the interests of patients. “If we increase spending on the NHS we must look every one of them in the eye and promise that every penny is being spent wisely,” he said. “Which means we mustn’t stop new ideas that come from outside the NHS – whether from charities or the independent sector.”

Accusing Andy Burnham, the shadow Health Secretary, of “scaremongering,” Mr Hunt said: “Labour call this privatisation. But using a charity like WhizzKids to supply wheelchairs to disabled children or using Specsavers to speed up the supply of glasses is not privatisation.

“When the last Labour government used the independent sector to bring down waiting times that wasn't privatisation either.”