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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Voices
Focus E15 Mothers led a protest to highlight the lack of affordable housing in London
voicesLondon’s housing crisis amounts to an abuse of human rights, says Grace Dent
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

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operations & Logistics Manager

£38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...

Recruitment Genius: GeoDatabase Specialist - Hazard Modelling

£35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our award-winning client is one...

Recruitment Genius: Compressed Air Pipework Installation Engineer

£15000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Coordinator - Pallet Network

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity to join established...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea