My family depends on NHS so it's safe in my hands, says Cameron

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Indy Politics

David Cameron will portray himself as the champion and defender of the National Health Service today as he makes another incursion into Labour's natural territory.

In his closing speech to the Tory conference in Bournemouth, Mr Cameron will argue that he can be trusted to protect the NHS and its budget because of his family's experience of using it. He and his wife, Samantha, have a four-year-old son, Ivan, who was born with cerebral palsy.

He will try to allay voters' fears that the health service would not be safe in the Tories' hands by making the three letters "NHS" his version of Tony Blair's three-word pledge to make "education, education, education" his personal priority.

The Tory leader will tell his party that the need to safeguard the NHS is one reason why he will continue to resist demands for an "irresponsible" promise of tax cuts. "It's a vital reason, because the NHS is vitally important to every family in this country. It certainly is in mine," he will say.

He will praise the creation of the NHS by the post-war Labour government as "one of the greatest achievements of the 20th century," saying he always believed this. "When your family relies on the NHS all the time - day after day, night after night - you know how precious it is," he will say. "So for me, it's not just a question of saying the NHS is safe in my hands. My family is so often in the hands of the NHS. So I want them to be safe there."

Mr Cameron will promise: "We will serve and support the NHS. We will never jeopardise the NHS by cutting its funding. But we will make sure the money is well spent."

His pledge to NHS workers will be that a Tory government would not bring in any more "pointless and disruptive reorganisations". He will add: "Yes, change is necessary in the NHS. But that change must come from the bottom up; driven by the wishes and needs of NHS professionals and patients."

The Tory leader will put the family at the heart of his party's policy agenda and spell out his thinking on issues such as terrorism, foreign affairs, human rights, community cohesion and the public's loss of trust in politicians.

He will address head-on criticism that his party is "all style and no substance" by declaring: "Substance is not about a 10-point plan. It is about deeper things than that. It is about knowing what you believe. It is about sticking to your guns."

Insisting that the Tories will not be bounced into policy commitments until after their review groups report next summer, he will say: "It is about taking time to think things through, not trotting out the easy answers that people want to hear. It is about character, and judgement and consistency. It's about policy, yes: but it's about developing policy for the long term."

Tory officials insisted last night that the party's policy would mean that the NHS would enjoy inflation-plus budget increases each year. The party has promised to share the proceeds of economic growth between public spending and tax cuts.

Labour will challenge Mr Cameron's claim that he has always believed in the NHS. It will remind voters that he wrote last year's Tory manifesto, which included a proposal to subsidise patients who opted out of the NHS to go private - a policy which has since been ditched.

Yesterday the Tory leader claimed his party has showed it was fully behind his crusade to modernise it during what has been seen as a successful if low-key conference.

"There's a real enthusiasm at this conference for the direction I have set. This party is excited at being in the centre ground," he told BBC Radio 4.

He denied that this meant the Tories were virtually the same as Labour. "There's been some big changes over these last 10 months. We have talked about stability first rather than banging on about tax cuts," he said.

"We've said let's improve public services for everybody rather than try to arrange opt-outs from the NHS for a few.

"I have put great store on getting more women into the Conservative Party because I want my party to look like the country it's trying to govern."