The Liberal Democrat Party election manifesto has unveiled plans to keep rural GP surgeries open by co-locating with libraries or post offices and sharing budgets.
The party has also pledged to ‘expand evening and weekend opening’ of GPs practices and to introduce maximum waiting time targets of six weeks for a referral for therapy for depression or anxiety.
These proposals are contained in the Liberal Democrats’ election manifesto, which promises £8bn extra annually for the NHS in England by 2020 alongside increases in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Another pledge is for an ‘innovation fund’ to help keep GPs surgeries, post offices and libraries open, although the value of this fund is not specified.
The manifesto states: ‘The Liberal Democrats will develop the community budgets model for use in rural areas to combine services, encouraging the breakdown of boundaries between different services. This will help keep rural services like GP surgeries, pharmacies, post offices and libraries open by enabling them to cooperate, share costs and co-locate in shared facilities.’
Another section states the party will ‘ensure easier access to GPs, expanding evening and weekend opening, encouraging phone and Skype appointments, encouraging GPs to work together in federations, and allowing people more choice.’
The party also wants to invest £500 million to transform mental health care with waiting time standards to match those in physical care, extending the use of personal budgets.
Another section formalises the party’s previously announced plan that it will incentivise GPs to work in deprived areas through a ‘Patient Premium’ scheme.
The party has pledged to ‘support new joined-up services’ such as GPs providing scans and blood tests closer to home, or hospitals having GP surgeries within A&E departments.
The Liberal Democrats further say they will ‘revolutionise’ children’s mental health services, building ‘better links with schools, ensuring all children develop mental resilience.’
Leader Nick Clegg said: ‘This manifesto is a blueprint for a stronger economy and a fairer society. This manifesto is a plan to finish the job of balancing the books and to do so fairly by protecting our schools, hospitals and public services.’
Last week the party pledged to invest £250m in GP IT upgrades including enabling more Skype consultations.
Liberal Democrat pledges on health:
- Deliver the £8 billion England’s NHS leaders say is needed to keep it strong, with money for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland too
- Develop the Community Budgets model for use in rural areas to combine services, encouraging the breaking down of boundaries between different services. This will help keep rural services like GP surgeries, pharmacies, post offices and libraries open by enabling them to cooperate, share costs and co-locate in shared facilities
- Invest £500m to transform mental health care with waiting time standards to match those in physical health care, with a waiting time standard from referral of no more than six weeks for therapy for depression or anxiety and a two-week wait standard for all young people experiencing a first episode of psychosis
- Introduce a package of support for carers including a £250 Carer’s Bonus every year
- Crack down on bad care, with better pay and conditions for care staff and higher standards for all
Other plans include:
- Join up health and care at national level, shifting full responsibility for care policy and funding to the Department of Health
- Support new joined-up services such as GPs providing services like scans and blood tests closer to home, or hospitals having GP surgeries within A&E departments
- Improve links between Jobcentres and Work Programme providers and the local NHS to ensure all those in receipt of health-related benefits are getting the care and support to which they are entitled. By expanding access to talking therapies, the party expects many more people to recover and be able to seek work again
- Develop an NHS ‘student guarantee’, making it easier for students to get care and support while at university, particularly those with long-term health conditions or caring responsibilities
Source: Liberal Democrat 2015 election manifesto