As a society we are judged by the way that we care for the vulnerable, the elderly, and those suffering from illness. Britain can be proud that in 1948 we led the world in laying the foundations for a universal health service, available to all regardless of wealth.
And we continue to lead the world today. Earlier this year the Commonwealth Fund rated the UK NHS best in the world overall, as well as in a number of specific categories.
In this Government, Liberal Democrats have protected health spending, and will continue to do so. But when we are spending £52bn a year on debt interest, we can only protect the NHS by re-ordering our public finances.
Over the past four years, the Liberal Democrats have played a central role in putting our national finances back in order. The economic crisis of 2008 presented a direct threat to our ability to adequately fund services like the NHS. This year the UK economy is expected to grow faster than that of any other major economy in the world, and this would not be happening without the Liberal Democrats in Government.
As Liberal Democrats we believe that as well as building a stronger economy, we must also work to create a fairer society. This means access to good quality health and care services for all, free at the point of use.
And to sustain our NHS for the future it needs investment and improvement. We have a rapidly ageing population, and increasing numbers of people living for longer with multiple chronic health conditions. We need to join up care around people’s lives, putting patients in the driving seat and providing better care in communities, closer to home.
We have announced today that we will table an amendment in Glasgow which will commit the Party to providing an extra £1 billion of real term funding for the NHS in the years 2016/17 and 2017/18 in addition to our existing commitment to protect funding in line with inflation.
This is a fully-funded commitment: it will be matched with measures to limit tax relief on pension pots for high earners, by adjusting dividend tax for additional rate tax-payers to reflect recent cuts in corporation tax, and ending the misguided Conservative policy of “shares for rights”.
We have also said that extra funding for the NHS will also be our priority in the Coalition negotiations for this year’s Autumn Statement.
Our announcement shows that the Liberal Democrats are the only party who are committed to building a stronger economy and a fairer society. The NHS is one of our proudest achievements as a nation. We must ensure that it is able to make the changes required to continue to provide excellent care in the years to come.
* Norman Lamb is MP for North Norfolk and was Liberal Democrat Minister of State at the Department of Health until May 2015