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Lib Dems announce plans to ‘fix’ the health and care crisis

The Liberal Democrats have announced plans to fix the health and care crisis by offering free personal care and ‘reversing Conservative cuts’ to the Public Health Grant.

© UK Parliament

The Liberal Democrats have announced plans to fix the health and care crisis by offering free personal care and ‘reversing Conservative cuts’ to the Public Health Grant.

Health leaders have welcomed the announcement and say that restoring these services will help to reduce health inequalities since cuts are often felt the most in more deprived areas of the country.

The plans follow from the party’s announcement to boost the number of GPs to 8,000 by boosting recruitment and incentivising experienced GPs who have left the profession to return. Their five-year plan also includes giving patients a legal right to see a GP within a week for non-urgent appointments, as well as giving more prescribing rights and public health advisory services to qualified pharmacists, nurse practitioners and paramedics.

Lib Dems say they will invest £1 billion in the Public Health Grant annually

The Public Health Grant provides local authorities with funding which can be used for projects that improve public health, including health checks for 40–74-year-olds, health visits for infants and their mothers, and wider access to blood pressure tests.

Research from the Health Foundation shows there has been a 28% real-terms per person cut in the value of the Public Health Grant since 2015/16. The Liberal Democrats reinvesting in the Grant represents a new ‘invest to save’ approach which improves health, thereby reducing pressure on NHS services.

The party says under the Conservatives, the amount of taxes going uncollected for reasons including avoidance, evasion and criminal activity has reached £35.8bn a year, and the investment will be paid for by cracking down on tax avoidance and evasion.

Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper said: “He [Rishi Sunak] has slashed funding for vital local services that support children, failed to fix our crumbling hospitals and overseen a stark rise in health inequality.

“The Liberal Democrats would reverse these scandalous cuts and invest in empowering local communities and individuals to lead healthier lives. It is time to recognise that it is far cheaper to prevent ill health than to treat it.”

Dr Penelope Toff, BMA public health medicine committee chair, says cuts to the Public Health Grant have ‘drastically’ impacted a range of local public health services, including alcohol and drug cessation programmes, which play a vital role in reducing health inequalities.

“Restoring the local Public Health grant is not only the right thing to do but makes good economic sense. We urge all political parties to show their recognition of prevention as an essential component of a healthy and effective society, through making a clear commitment to reversing these damaging cuts and investing in improving the health of the population,” she said.

Free personal care would help to ‘fix’ social care crisis

The Lib Dem’s plan to fix the social care crisis includes offering free personal care (including nursing care, help with mobility, hygiene and medication) to older and disabled people in their own homes to prevent people from having to sell their homes and other assets to pay for care.

The latest data from the NHS shows that nearly 13,000 people are currently stuck in hospital despite being fit for discharge. Lib Dem leader Ed Davey says fixing the care crisis is therefore fundamental to tackling the crisis facing the NHS.

This policy, which is estimated to cost £2.7 billion a year, would be fully funded by reversing tax cuts given to large banks since 2016. Mr Davey says the plan would also save the NHS up to £3.3 billion through reduced pressure on hospitals and other NHS services.

He said: “Far too often, family carers are being left to pick up the pieces because the care system simply isn’t there for them. Millions of people are going without the care they need, while thousands are stuck in hospital beds instead of being cared for in their own home or a care home.

“We cannot fix the crisis facing the NHS without fixing the crisis facing social care. The Liberal Democrats would bring in free personal care to help people live independently and with dignity, in their own homes wherever possible.”

The Royal College of Nursing has welcomed the plans, but says they must be accompanied by a workforce plan to ensure there are enough nurses to provide care to those who need it.

Patricia Marquis, Executive Director of RCN England, said: “With over a hundred thousand care worker vacancies across the sector, any policy to improve personal care requires an equally ambitious, fully-funded long-term workforce plan. We also need to see pay and conditions improve in the sector, which lag behind the NHS in this regard.

“The RCN supports proposals for free personal care, but the plan’s ambitions rely on growing the nursing workforce responsible for its delivery. It therefore could be limited in its ability to improve these vital services.”

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