See your NHS doctor within two days under Labour government, Ed Miliband pledges

Political Editor

Patients would be guaranteed a GP appointment within 48 hours under a Labour Government and those who need it would get one within 24 hours.

Announcing Labour’s plans for the National Health Service tonight, Ed Miliband promised that an extra £100 million a year would be ploughed into GP services, allowing an extra three million appointments a year, relieving pressure on accident and emergency units and preventing  unnecessary hospital admissions.

In a hard-hitting speech in Manchester, the Labour leader attacked the current waiting times for GP appointments as “a scandal”. He also accused David Cameron of breaking his “bond of trust” with the British people to defend the NHS, saying: “He has proved the oldest truth in British politics: you can’t trust the Tories with the NHS.”

The move will be seen as an attempt by Labour to push health up the political agenda. Although voters trust Labour more than the Conservatives on the NHS, it has slipped down their list of most important issues facing the country.

But Labour suffered a setback last night when an opinion poll showed the Tories ahead for the first time in more than two years. The survey conducted for Lord Ashcroft, the Tories’ former deputy chairman, put the Conservatives on 34 per cent, Labour on 32 per cent, Ukip on 15 per cent and the Liberal Democrats on 9 per cent.

With polls suggesting that 25 per cent of people cannot get a GP appointment within a week, Mr Miliband will make improving primary care a key pledge at next year’s general election. In 2010, the Coalition scrapped the previous Labour Government’s 48-hour appointment target. Labour said the number of patients seen within that timescale has since halved to 40 per cent.

Under the new policy, people would also be able to book a GP appointment more than 48 hours ahead with the doctor of their choice. Patients would be able to consult a doctor or nurse by telephone on the same day. Those who needed to be seen quickly would get a slot on that day, while others would be seen within 48 hours.

Although the NHS faces a deep financial crisis after the next election, Mr Miliband admitted that an incoming Labour Government would not be able to pump billions into health in the way the Blair and Brown administrations did. “Money will be tight,” he said. “The next Labour government won’t be able to match that scale of increase. We will have to do things in a new way to make our health service better, to save money where we can – and make sure that every single penny is well spent.”

Labour would fund the £500 million boost for GP services over five years by cutting back the competition for health contracts introduced by the Coalition. For example, Labour claims it could save £78 million in unnecessary administration and legal fees because NHS services are now threatened by EU competition law. The regulator Monitor would no longer enforce competition as part of a drive to cut the £3 million a month being spent by health bodies on outside consultants.

Mr Miliband argued that Labour’s plan to “improve, protect and nurture” the NHS  would make it preventive rather than reactive. The party would integrate physical and mental health services and social care and invest in care in people’s own homes. “If  a simple grab rail is placed in someone’s hall at home, that can stop a fall that could lead that person breaking a bone, keeping them out of hospital, saving them the pain and the suffering and saving the NHS thousands of pounds,” he said.

The Labour leader pointed to studies showing that a five per cent increase in patients seeing their preferred GP could reduce emergency admissions by 159,000 a year and saving the health service £375 million.

The Conservatives claimed that Labour’s sums did not add up. A Tory health spokesman said: “This is an unfunded pie-in-the-sky policy that Labour can't pay for and doctors can't deliver. More unfunded spending would mean more borrowing and more taxes to pay for it. It’s the same old Labour. The last Labour Government vandalised the relationship between GPs and their patients by introducing tickbox targets and scrapping family doctors, something we are now putting right. Far from improving access, another top-down target will leave GPs less time with their patients and put more pressure on general practice. The real solution is less micromanagement and more GPs, something we’ve already committed to.”

Critics claimed that, when Labour was in office, the 48-hour target meant that patients could not get the appointments they wanted. Many surgeries did not allow patients to book advance appointments. The 2010 GP patient survey said a quarter of patients who wanted to book a slot more than two days in advance were unable to do so.

Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, has unveiled a £50 million plan to boost access to family doctors. 20 pilot schemes covering 1,150 practices will include experiments with surgeries opening from 8am-8pm seven days a week and allowing patients to book appointments by email.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sheridan Maine: Accounts Assistant

£30,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for a perso...

Sheridan Maine: Accounts Payable Clerk

£21,000 - £24,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a new opportunit...

Sheridan Maine: Finance Manager

£55,000 - £65,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accountant with ...

Sheridan Maine: Finance Analyst

£45,000 - £55,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified accountant...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor