The NHS is something our country should be immensely proud of. Care, free at the point of use, based on need and not ability to pay.
This is a fundamental entitlement that should be preserved. No government worth its salt – certainly, no government of which I am a part – will ever jeopardise that.
I know just how important it is to have the comfort of knowing that the NHS will always be there for you if you’re in an accident, if you get ill or if your family need treatment. And it should always be free. No bills, no credit cards, no worries about money when you’re worrying about your health.
That’s why when the Liberal Democrats came into Government we took a decision to protect NHS funding, despite warnings from the Labour Party that it would be irresponsible to do so.
It meant greater reductions for other areas of public spending, but it is a decision that I stick by and I hope readers would agree.
But even with that protection, our health services continue to face huge pressures.
Our population isn’t the same. People in Britain are living longer than ever. There are now more pensioners in this country than under 16-year-olds and the number is rising. That’s more older men and women needing care, more families looking after older relatives needing support.
So that means properly funding our NHS for the future and providing better care, both for physical and mental health.
The Liberal Democrats want to invest at least £1 billion extra in the NHS in each year of the next Parliament, as well as carrying out a review of health and care budgets.
But we also want to see extra funding straight away – starting with an extra £1.5billion in the next financial year.
Too often politicians take the easy way out and delay big spending decisions in the hope they become someone else’s problem. But doing that would betray patients.
That’s what Liberal Democrats are pushing for because we know that the NHS needs significantly more money to adapt to the changing needs of our population and it can’t afford to wait.