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Lib Dems pledge £250m investment in GP Skype consultations

The Liberal Democrats have promised to improve GP access by increasing the number of consultations held over Skype rather than in person or over the phone.

Its leader and deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, said it would fund this and other technological upgrades through a £250m ‘transformation fund’ raised from sales of ‘redundant’ NHS assets.

The party has promised to fund NHS England’s plan, the Five Year Forward View ‘in full’, by spending an extra £8bn a year on the NHS during the next Parliament up to 2020, which it said was £17bn more than the Tories and £7bn more than Labour.

According to a statement published today, this would mean it could fund ‘38,000’ more GPs than Labour has pledged via its £2.5bn ‘Time to Care’ fund, although there are no plans to actually fund these new GPs.

The statement said: ‘We will set aside £250m from the profits of the sale of redundant NHS assets to fund new technologies in the health service.

‘The money will be used to make more doctor appointments and repeat prescriptions available online. It will also improve GP access by encouraging more patients to contact their doctors by Skype.’

Mr Clegg said what the NHS needs is ‘not warm words [but] hard cash’.

He said: ‘The Liberal Democrats are the only party that has committed to finding that money and the only one that has set out how it will pay for it. But we also need to help the NHS adapt so it is fit for the challenges of the 21st century.

‘That’s why we have a plan to introduce modern technology that will help patients, with more doctors’ appointments and repeat prescriptions at the touch of a button.’

Earlier this week, health secretary Jeremy Hunt said the Tories would pay ‘whatever is needed’ to make NHS England’s general practice transformation plans a reality.

Meanwhile, Labour attacked the Coalition Government over its record on GP access by pointing out that 590 fewer practices were now doing the extended hours DES.