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
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

Recruitment Genius: Cleaner / Caretaker / Storeman

£15500 - £17680 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A position has become available...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Sales - SaaS B2B

£60000 - £120000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This conference call startup i...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital and print design a...

Day In a Page

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

Are you a 50-center?

Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

Hollywood's new diet trends

Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years