November 12, 2019 / 10:34 PM / 24 days ago

UK's Labour pledges 26 bln pound boost to healthcare spending

LONDON, Nov 12 (Reuters) - Britain’s opposition Labour Party will pledge on Wednesday to spend an extra 26 billion pounds ($33 billion) on healthcare if it wins the Dec. 12 election, including recruiting thousands more staff, rebuilding facilities and providing new equipment.

Labour, which is trailing Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives in the polls, has sought to make the state-run National Health Service (NHS), a central part of its campaign.

“With experts warning this winter is set to be one of the worst, the truth is our NHS is crying out for a financial rescue plan to deliver real change for patients,” the party’s health spokesman Jonathan Ashworth will say in a speech in London, according to advance extracts provided by the party.

“We are announcing today the levels of investment our NHS needs to not only again provide the quality care our sick and elderly deserve but secures the NHS for the future as well.”

An average annual increase of 4.3 percent for health spending over the next four years will be paid for by proposals to reverse cuts to corporation tax and increase taxes on the richest, Labour said.

The 26 billion pound real terms increase for day-to-day spending from 2018-19 to 2023-24 was 6 billion pounds more than the Conservatives had promised for the same period, it said.

The NHS, which has provided healthcare free at the point of use for more than 70 years, is consistently ranked by voters as the second-biggest issue after Brexit.

Struggling under the pressure of record demand due to a growing and ageing population, as well as cutbacks to social care services, the health service has warned it faces a shortfall in funding despite government promises of extra money.

Labour said it would boost funding on capital expenditure, including maintenance and new high-tech equipment, provide more money for training and education, and expand public health services in areas such as obesity and mental health.

Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; editing by Stephen Addison

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