A better place to live; Health and wellbeing for all

Liberal Democrats

Liberal Democrats recognise that good health is vital for everyone’s quality of life and that the government has a responsibility to both help people stay healthy, and to ensure that there is provision of high quality care for if and when they fall ill.

In government we have protected the NHS budget in real terms but we recognise that in the future this will not be enough in order to ensure the provision of high quality health care for all. The NHS must be both protected and improved; we must focus more on preventing illness and disease instead of just treating problems when they arise and as the population continues to age, and long term conditions become more prevalent this shift will become more and more necessary as pressure builds. This is why we are committed to ensuring that the NHS budget will rise by at least inflation in the next parliament. The importance of getting NHS funding right cannot be overstated and in recognition of that in 2015 we would commission a Fundamental Review of NHS finances to assess the pressures and the scope for efficiencies. This would enable us to set multi-year budgets that will give the stability necessary to maintain and improve the standard of NHS services, whilst ensuring that access is based on need, not on ability to pay, and that the NHS remains free at the point of delivery. Pressure on NHS finances would be alleviated by tackling the causes of ill health before problems develop, to that end we would do more to promote healthy eating and exercise and raise awareness of the dangers of smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and other drugs.  We would also invest in research and set ambitious goals to improve outcomes for the most serious diseases like cancer and dementia

We have also started working towards ending the disparity in the quality of healthcare an individual receives dependent on whether their condition is physical or mental. Whilst our understanding of effective treatment is increasing still, too often, mental health patients are treated to a second class service. We have improved access to talking therapies but we want to go much further by ensuring that mental health patients are treated just as fast as those with physical health problems. By improving access and waiting time standards as well as establishing a world leading mental health research fund we would deliver genuine party of esteem between mental and physical health. We would improve the mental health of children by promoting wellbeing throughout schools and ensuring that they can access the services they need as soon as a mental health problem develops.

We also need to make sure that health services fit around people’s lives rather than the other way round; an integrated rather than fragmented service that suits the need of local communities. To aid this process we would reform the NHS payment system to encourage better integration of hospital and community care services, including the pooling of local budgets. This would allow for more use of personal budgets for people who want them and better access to services to help people get care closer to home. We would also encourage GP’s to improve access and availability of appointments, in and out of hours, as well as to work in more disadvantaged areas.

With these commitments Liberal Democrats know that we would be taking a big step towards truly delivering health and wellbeing for all.