Today, the Green Party will launch a powerful bid to influence the health agenda towards the next general election.
The Green New Deal for the NHS proposes an extra £500m a year for maternity servces, plus £1.8bn a year for dental care. Most of this would be paid for by savings of £1bn on getting rid of Independent Sector Treatment Centres, and a further £1bn or more saved by scrapping the health care market.
There would be one-off costs of £1bn for reorganisation and at least £12bn to buy back the private finance initiatives, but liberating the NHS from PFI payments would save £1bn a year. So the Green New Deal for the NHS would pay for itself in the medium term, say the Greens.
On maternity services, the Greens' £500m stimulus would create a single-tier approach for all mothers:
* A wider range of birth choices - including home birth for all women who want it.
* All women to be entitled to support from a single midwife throughout each pregnancy.
* A major recruitment drive for midwives.
* Medical interventions to be significantly reduced.
* Culture change throughout the NHS so that birth is treated as a normal event - not an illness - in which mothers are empowered and able to be in control.
The extra £1.8bn a year for dentistry would restore the principle of dental care free at the point of access, with an end to the severe difficulties many people are now facing in attempting to find an NHS dentist.
Dignity, compassion and accountability
But improving the health service isn't just about wise spending and better access to services, say the Greens. The Green New Deal for the NHS would also improve the accountability of those services, along these lines:
* The NHS to be accountable to local government and thus to local people.
* An end to the purchaser/provider split so that public health, service planners and providers of care are under local government.
* The NHS to have centrally-defined minimum standards and national agreement on which treatments are available.
* Local people and clinicians to have a real say in how and where these services are delivered.
Finally the Green New Deal for the NHS would restore and develop a culture of dignity and compassion in the UK's health service, the Greens say:
* Health services must meet the needs of patients, not the needs of the market and corporate shareholders.
* Maternity care must meet the needs of women and their babies.
* Patients suffering with poor mental health must get a real say in the way they are treated. They must be told their diagnosis and must be able to set advance directives that spell out what type of care they want when they are ill.
* There must be legislation to prevent discrimination against people with mental illness.
Caroline Lucas MEP, Green Party leader - who is widely tipped to become the first Green MP at Westminster in the next general election - said today: "We need to protect and improve the National Health Service, and we need to stop it being used as a vehicle for private profit. We believe the public wants this too. So we're throwing down the gauntlet to the other parties, to match the Green Party's commitment to the NHS."
1. The report can be found at [http://www.greenparty.org.uk/reports]