What are the parties saying about public spending and NHS funding?

Here we set out the major parties' positions as we approach party conference season. For the latest on what the parties are saying, see our general election tracker.

What the parties say about funding for health and social care will be heavily influenced by their wider plans for public spending and reducing the budget deficit.  The main parties have all made commitments to eliminate the deficit during the next parliament, although there are differences, particularly in their approach to capital spending, which will affect their room for manoeuvre on public spending.

Conservatives

The Conservatives are committed to running an absolute budget surplus (including capital spending) by the end of the next parliament. In his last budget speech, George Osborne indicated that he expects the budget to be in surplus by 2018/19. He has also indicated that this can be achieved through cuts in spending, without requiring further tax rises. 

Last year's Spending Round committed the government to a real terms increase in health spending in 2015/16. Beyond that, the Conservatives have not made any commitments on future spending, although Jeremy Hunt did indicate in an interview with the BBC's Andrew Marr that his party's 'instincts' are to continue to protect the NHS budget.

Labour

Labour has said it will stick to the government's spending plans in 2015/16. Beyond that, it has pledged to run a surplus on the current budget by the end of the parliament. Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls has not been specific about his plans for capital spending, leaving the door open to borrow to pay for infrastructure projects. Unlike his Conservative counterpart, he has indicated that Labour may raise some taxes, rather than relying on spending cuts to deliver all the savings needed to balance the budget. 

Labour has not yet set out its position on health and social care spending beyond 2015/16, although Balls  did say in an interview with the New Statesman that he would be 'staggered' if Labour did not continue to ring fence it. In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Balls appeared to rule out an increase in National Insurance or other taxes to pay for increased spending on the NHS, although there continues to be media speculation about this.

Liberal Democrats

The Lib Dems' pre-manifesto document pledges to eliminate the current deficit by 2017/18. They will allow borrowing to fund capital spending, giving them more room for manoeuvre than their coalition partners on public spending. Like Labour, they have pledged not to rely solely on spending cuts to eliminate the deficit. 

The Lib Dems are the only party so far to have set out their plans for health spending after 2015/16, pledging that the NHS budget will increase by at least the rate of inflation every year of the next parliament, and to undertake a fundamental review of health and social care finances in 2015.