Norman Lamb: NHS could 'crash' without more money

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Media captionNorman Lamb MP: "We have to grasp the nettle now and acknowledge that the system needs more resources"

Up to £1.5bn of extra funding for the NHS in England should be found ahead of the general election to prevent a "crash" in services, says the Liberal Democrat Health Minister Norman Lamb.

He urged the Chancellor, George Osborne, to pledge the money in next month's Autumn Statement - and make it available from next April.

Delaying the decision risked "betraying patients", he warned.

The government says it has already increased NHS funding by about £5bn.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has also said if the economy becomes stronger, it may be possible to increase spending further.

Financial squeeze

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Lamb said: "The NHS could crash, this is the risk.

"If we don't get the additional resource, then you would see increasing numbers of trusts getting into financial difficulty, you would see growing numbers of people waiting longer for access to treatment, and longer waiting lists to get to see your GP.

"None of this we want, and I think we have to grasp the nettle now and acknowledge that the system needs more resources."

Mr Lamb has also called for at least £1bn extra funding per year in 2016 and beyond, to help plug the "funding gap" described last month by Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, who set out his Five Year Forward View last month.

Mr Lamb said: "Simon Stevens made the case in his forward view that the system has performed remarkably well over the last five years and we've maintained funding for the NHS throughout this period.

"But the fact is that across the developed world costs are rising at about 4% a year, challenges like the fact that we're all living longer, we've got a big challenge with dementia, with obesity, and all of these things cost extra money and the judgement from very many people is that the NHS now needs additional resources for 2015-16 and the Lib Dems are making the case for it."

But Andy Burnham, shadow health secretary, said: "You can't trust a word the Lib Dems say. If the NHS is facing a crash then it is as a result of their and the Tories' policies.

"This is breathtaking hypocrisy, even for the Lib Dems. Thanks to them it's getting harder to see your GP, waiting lists are up and £3bn has been wasted on a top-down reorganisation while frontline staff have been lost.

"This is the record of this Government: an NHS going backwards under the Tories, made possible thanks to the support and the votes of the Lib Dems.

"Rather than bickering amongst themselves the Lib Dems and Tories should be focussing on fixing the mess they've made of the NHS."

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