Our first priorities in the next parliament will be: raising £7 billion a year in additional revenue by putting 1p on Income Tax, with this money to be ringfenced for spending on the NHS and social care; transforming mental health by treating it with the same urgency as physical health; and reforming the Health and Social Care Act as recommended by the NHS, to make the NHS work in a more efficient and joined-up way, and to end the automatic tendering of services.
To put the funding of health and care on a sounder footing we will: commission the development of a dedicated, progressive Health and Care Tax, offset by other tax reductions; establish a cross-party health and social care convention; and introduce a statutory independent budget monitoring body. Our ultimate objective will be to bring together NHS, Social Care and public health seamlessly.
Physical and mental health should be treated equally in the NHS. Our plan prioritises early intervention to prevent people from experiencing a mental health crisis and to minimise the number and duration of in-patient stays.
There are 340,000 problem gamblers in the UK including some 55,000 children aged 11 to 16. The Liberal Democrats will introduce further measures to protect individuals, their families and communities from problem gambling. We will: introduce a compulsory levy on gambling companies to fund research, education and treatment of problem gambling; ban the use of credit cards for gambling; restrict gambling advertising; and establish a Gambling Ombudsman.
Carers are unsung heroes; we need to do more to help them. We will: introduce a statutory guarantee of regular respite breaks for unpaid carers, and require councils to make regular contact with carers to offer support and signpost services; provide a package of carer benefits such as free leisure centre access, free bus travel for young carers, and self-referral to socially prescribed activities and courses; and raise the amount people can earn before losing their Carer’s Allowance from £123 to £150 a week, and reduce the number of hours’ care per week required to qualify for it.
We will develop a strategy to tackle childhood obesity including restricting the marketing of junk food to children, and closing loopholes in the Soft Drinks Industry Levy. We will extend it to include juice- and milk-based drinks that are high in added sugar. We will guarantee that every child who is eligible for free school meals has access to at least an hour a day of free activities to improve their health and wellbeing. We will require labelling for food products, in a readable font size, and publication of information on calorie, fat, sugar and salt content in restaurants and takeaways; and restrict how products high in fat, salt and sugar are marketed and advertised by multiple retailers.
The prohibitionist attitude to drug use of both Labour and Conservative Governments over decades has failed. We will introduce a legal, regulated market for cannabis. We will introduce limits on the potency levels, and permit cannabis to be sold through licensed outlets to adults over the age of 18.
We believe that everyone has a right to make independent decisions over their reproductive health without interference by the state, and that access to reproductive healthcare is a human right. We will: decriminalise abortion across the UK while retaining the existing 24-week limit and legislate for access to abortion facilities within Northern Ireland; enforce safe zones around abortion clinics, make intimidation or harassment of abortion service users and staff outside clinics, or on common transport routes to these services, illegal; and fund abortion clinics to provide their services free of charge to service users regardless of nationality or residency.
Leaving the European Union would pose serious threats to the sustainability of the NHS and Social Care systems. It would severely threaten the scope to recruit or retain staff from elsewhere in Europe (a problem which will be made worse by the Conservatives’ proposed ‘nurse tax’). It risks potential delays to medicines, cancer tests, and treatments using radioisotopes. If Donald Trump has his way, it means increased access by US corporations to services currently provided by the NHS and the UK drugs market. Above all it means a long-term loss of financial resources as a result of reduced UK economic growth. Only a Liberal Democrat government can be trusted to avoid these risks by stopping Brexit.