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Saturday, 17 February, 2001, 16:43 GMT
Liberal Democrats health policies

Find out more about Liberal Democrat health policies.

The Liberal Democrats plan to raise an extra 9.5bn in taxes, with a one penny increase in the basic rate of income tax and a rate of 50% tax on incomes over 100,000. They promise investment in the health service, and in other public services.


WAITING LISTS

The Lib Dems say the best way to reduce waiting times is by recruiting and retaining more staff, and by increasing the number of beds available in the NHS.

Instead of waiting list targets, the Liberal Democrats would organise treatment on a "scorecard system".

This would take into account both clinical need and the needs of the patient, and would provide guidelines to "help, but not bind" doctors.

Patients would also have guaranteed appointments with consultants and for surgery, after they have been referred by a GP.


HEALTH INEQUALITIES

Patient Care Guarantees would set out minimum standards of treatment.

The first guarantees would be based on existing National Service Frameworks (NSFs).

In the future, NSFs would incorporate the guarantees. The Lib Dems promise new NSFs on children in care, prosthetic limbs, hepatitis C, HIV and Aids, palliative care, nutrition, adoption, neurological services, diabetes, maternity services and dentistry.

They also promise to introduce free eye and dental check ups for all.

The Lib Dems would extend the National Institute for Clinical Excellence's remit to consider existing treatments as well as new ones, and remove the "affordability" issue from NICE's recommendations and place it with ministers.

Tests for conditions such as diabetes, anaemia, HIV/Aids, TB, prostate and colorectal diseases would be available in GP surgeries and pharmacies.

Complementary healthcare would be made more widely available on the NHS.


HOW THE NHS WORKS

Liberal Democrats promise extra funds for the NHS through a 50p top rate tax for people earning over 100,000, and by closing loopholes in capital gains tax.

They also promise an extra 10,000 beds over five years, 3,000 more than the government has committed itself to.

They would also set up a Pharmaceuticals Agency, aimed at managing drugs purchasing for the NHS at a national level.

Money saved would be used to end the "postcode lottery" and allow high-tech drugs and equipment to be available on the NHS.

Eventually, the savings would also be used to remove prescription charges.

Hospital cleanliness would be improved and mixed wards would no longer be used.

Investment in scanning and diagnostic equipment would be doubled.

The public health minister would be based in the Cabinet Office rather than the Department if Health to better co-ordinate policy across departments, and the role of Whitehall in running the health service would be reduced.


STAFFING

The Lib Dems promises to set up a Low Pay Commission for the NHS, which will be given 500m a year to boost the pay of staff on low wages.

Nurses on low pay grades, including students, will receive at least 1,000 more, and therapists and scientists will receive a bigger pay rise.

They are committed to providing training places for an extra 4,600 doctors and 27,500 nurses and midwives over five years, which they say is 2,500 and 7,500 more places respectively, than Labour has promised.

This, they say, would mean 1,500 extra nurses and 500 extra doctors every year above what Labour has set out on the NHS Plan.

The Lib Dems also promise 10,250 extra professionals allied to medicine - such as physiotherapists, podiatrists, speech and occupational therapists, 3,750 more training places than Labour has promised.

They also promise to invest 500m into dental services, which they say could attract around 1,000 dentists back to the NHS.

They would make no changes to the way primary care operates.

But they plan to integrate health and social services on primary care trust boards, in the same way Labour plans to integrate services in the new Care Trusts.

The party wants a change in law to protect NHS staff from attack.


PRIVATE HEALTHCARE

The Lib Dems have said they have a "relaxed attitude" to the NHS commissioning care from the private sector.

They promise to enable patients to use facilities in the private sector if the service is not available through the NHS, but say it has to be at the same cost as the NHS.

The criteria for assessing private finance initiative plans for new hospitals would be reviewed.


STANDARDS

The Lib Dems want to see a reform of the General Medical Council.

The party backs the National Clinical Assessment Authority, which will deal with local concerns about a doctor's performance.

The NHS would be made more accountable, locally and nationally.

Patients would be given independent advocates, particularly vulnerable groups such as children, the elderly and those with learning difficulties.

The Lib Dems promise a Children's Rights Commissioner.

No-fault compensation would be introduced to end what the party calls the "lottery" of medical negligence compensation.


SOCIAL CARE

The Lib Dems will fund all personal care costs for those in long-term care.

There would be legislation to end age discrimination in the health and social care sectors.

They back the three month "breathing space" which the Labour government has already suggested, between the elderly entering nursing or residential care and being means-tested to see if they will pay charges, which can mean they have to sell their homes.

They also plan to establish a National Care Commission to monitor care for older people, act as an advocate for the consumer and promote "innovation and service improvement"

There would be more funding for mental health services, and local authority social services budgets would be increased.

Before they were sold, all homes would have to be audited for "energy efficiency.

Together with policies on fuel poverty, the Lib Dems want to improve health through warmer homes, and a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.

They also aim to tackle air pollution.

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