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: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent