The new Con-Dem love in was sealed with an agreement document (you can find it here on the Guardian website). Apparently a more detailed document will be made available tomorrow.
There are two things to mention. Scan this to see what they have agreed about the NHS, what can you see? That's right, there is just one mention of the department that takes a sixth of government spending and it is this:
The parties agree that funding for the NHS should increase in real terms in each year of the parliament, while recognising the impact this decision would have on other departments.
This echoes what Cameron has said throughout the election. However, there are no details about the restructuring of the NHS, all the "Big Society" guff, outcomes, GP fundholding, "inviting in the private sector". Nothing. That sounds suspicious. Basically the LibDems will not prevent Lansley's damaging plans to turn the NHS into a commissioning-only organisation, and allowing the private sector to cherry pick services from our NHS hospitals.
The second thing is this article from the FT Cameron drops pledge to raise NHS spending in real terms:
The coalition document is yet to be published. But I’ve been told that the ring-fence on NHS funding has been lifted. The exact wording is:
“We will increase NHS spending in every year of the parliament.”
This meets the Lib Dem policy of not protecting any department from public spending cuts, while guaranteeing that health funding will at least be flat in cash terms . The Tory manifesto had, of course, promised real terms increases in the health budget.
The concession won’t make a big difference to the spending round. On average other departments will suffer bigger cuts than health.
But the politics is important. This was Cameron’s totemic health pledge, plastered on posters around the country. Now he will be cutting the deficit and health spending (at least in real terms).
I always thought that Osborne would say on day one in the Treasury "I've seen the books, and we will not be able to honour the NHS ring fence". The reason is that Lansley always talked about the ring fence in terms of "depending on what George sees when he's seen the books". It seems that the LibDems have forced Cameron's hand and they will now be blamed for the NHS cuts.
It looks like Hannan's "sixty year mistake" will not survive the next five years.