Responding to the publication of the Liberal Democrat election manifesto, Chris Ham, Chief Executive of The King’s Fund, said:
‘The Liberal Democrats have set out a very clear and detailed prospectus for the NHS in their election manifesto.
‘At the heart of this is a clear commitment to deliver integrated care, including a pledge to transfer responsibility for social care to the Department of Health and a target date of 2018 to pool NHS and social care budgets locally. This confirms that integrated care is now the destination for all the main parties, even if they have mapped out very different journeys to get there.
‘The pledge to find the additional £8 billion a year called for in the NHS five year forward view is welcome. However, the detail behind the pledge indicates that most of this new funding will not be available until the latter half of the parliament, so it will not address the immediate financial pressures facing the NHS.
Proposals to invest an additional £500 million a year in services close to people’s homes could help reduce pressures on hospitals by reducing delayed discharges. However, like the other two main parties, the Lib Dems do not address the significant and growing pressures facing social care services. Social care funding has become the ghost at the feast of this election campaign.
‘The Liberal Democrats have led the way in pushing mental health up the agenda. While they are right to prioritise spending on mental health and community services, holding back most of the £8bn funding increase until 2017/18 will create an unsustainable squeeze on acute services in the meantime.’