The Conservatives will boost NHS spending by £8bn over the next five years if they win the general election, the Health Secretary has promised.
Jeremy Hunt’s intervention appeared designed to scupper Labour attempts to seize the initiative over health in early skirmishes in the election campaign.
Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, has drawn up plans to increase spending by £30bn by 2019/20. He has calculated that £22bn can be saved through efficiency savings, leaving £8bn of extra spending.
Asked by the Sunday Times if the Tories would find the full £30bn, Mr Hunt replied: “Yes. We’ve demonstrated that we’re as good as our word.
“At the last election we were the only party that promised to protect the NHS budget. We didn't just protect it, we increased it.”
The Conservatives had previously said they backed the Stevens plan, but had sidestepped questions over whether they would find all the extra money to fund it.
In numbers: the NHS crisis
In his interview, the Health Secretary said Mr Stevens had asked for £1.7bn for the first year of his five year plan, but the Government had produced £2bn.
“We’re now doing the work as to what the efficiency savings are. The gap might be more than £8bn, it might be less,” Mr Hunt said.
“That will all be settled in the summer when we do the spending-round discussions. We will continue to spend more in real terms year in, year out.”
The shadow Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, said the “extreme” cuts planned by the Tories for the next three years would mean they could not protect the NHS.
He reiterated Labour plans to plough £2.5bn a year into the health service, using money raised from a mansion tax on homes worth £2 million and more.
The Liberal Democrats said their Conservative coalition partners had not credibly spelt out where they would raise the extra money.
Their campaign spokesman, Lord Scriven, said: “The Tory agenda for drastic cuts will put the burden of finding extra money on the NHS itself.”
Anita Charlesworth, the chief economist of the Health Foundation charity, said the NHS would still face “significant challenges” even with an £8bn cash injection.
She said: “The NHS faces a potential funding gap of £30 billion by 2020 as the pressures on the service continue to grow.”Reuse content