Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt MP. Photo credit: Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP at DPA 2011 via photopin (license)

“On Saturday David Cameron was pledging a 24/7 NHS based on misleading evidence and inadequate funding. 24 hours later, his Health Secretary appears to be pledging an extra £8bn for the NHS.

“It’s clear that with less than 6 weeks to go, the Tories are in an NHS election panic.

“Behind their last-minute election bribes, the Tories are glossing over a critical and misplaced assumption: that ‘only’ £8bn of extra funding by 2020 is required. This is based on Simon Stevens’ unrealistic target of £22bn of efficiency savings to plug the predicted £30bn funding gap.

“Jeremy Hunt is even claiming he can squeeze out more than £22bn of ‘savings’.

“The National Health Action Party would remind the public that we have just had a £20 billion efficiency savings programme over the last 5 years called the “Nicholson challenge”, which has left our NHS in crisis with emergency services, general practice and mental health at breaking point and cancer targets missed. It has turned the NHS from a non-issue in the 2010 General Election to the number one issue at this election.

“The efficiency savings made so far have already taken the low hanging fruit and pushed the NHS to the cliff-edge. To subject the NHS to even greater efficiency savings for another 5 years will push the NHS over the edge. Jeremy Hunt’s latest comments show just how misguided and reckless the Tories are with our NHS.

“The NHA Party is calling for a minimum 4% rise in NHS funding, tantamount to a £4.5 billion yearly increase, funded initially by a penny rise in income tax.

“We would save billions by addressing the other costly elephants in the room: scrapping the market, halting privatisation, and unwinding PFI deals.

“We also need to address the chronic staffing shortages and outrageous sums spent on agency staff, but recruitment depends on reversing the morale-sapping impact of this government which is causing an exodus of experienced staff.

“It’s also time for the major parties to acknowledge that the NHS is not a drag on the economy; quite the reverse. Spending on healthcare actually stimulates economic growth through fiscal multiplier effects, while austerity increases demand on health services.

“We need a strong NHS for a strong economy. The sooner the political class acknowledge this, the more chance we have of retaining the high quality health service that the public deserves.”

NHA co-leader, Dr Clive Peedell.