By Gareth Iacobucci
The Conservatives have put the NHS at the centre of the coming general election campaign, as they today launched a draft health manifesto with plans to link GPs' pay more closely to the quality of care they deliver.
The document, launched this morning by Conservative leader David Cameron, crystallises the Tories' stance on key health policies, with the NHS set to form a key battleground in the forthcoming campaign.
In it, the party makes a series of pledges, including a promise to ‘link GPs pay to the quality of the results they deliver', and hand them real commissioning budgets.
The shift is likely to see a radical redesign of the QOF to focus more on clinical outcomes and public health.
It also confirms that the party will ‘open up the NHS to new independent and voluntary sector providers', putting clear water between itself and the Labour Government – which has recently backed away from the use of the market.
The manifesto pledges to provide separate public health funding to local authorities, and to commit extra resources to the poorest areas, by weighting public health funding.
It also promises to accelerate the online publication of data about the performance of GPs and other staff to the public, and to abolish central targets.
But Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Secretary, Norman Lamb accused the Tories of playing 'fantasy politics' with their plans.
He said: 'All today's announcement confirms is that the Tories can't be trusted with the NHS and have every intention of playing fantasy politics all the way up to the election.
'The time has come for David Cameron to be honest with the British public. If the Tories want to pledge extra spending on health in some areas then they must admit that without extra funds it will lead to cuts in frontline services elsewhere. And if they plan to remove all central targets how do they intend to prevent a return to the waiting lists of old?'
Conservative leader David Cameron Conservative leader David Cameron Conservative draft health manifesto
Conservative draft health manifestoThe manifesto in full
To read a full copy of the Conservative's draft health manifesto, published today, please click here.