“Our NHS – a precious institution that has been nurtured for most of its life by Conservative governments.”

Philip Hammond, Budget Speech, 29 October 2018

It’s true that the Conservatives have spent more years in power since the NHS was founded in 1948.

In the 70 years since then, Labour were in office for 27 years and the Conservatives for 43, if you include the 2010-15 coalition (when the Prime Minister, Chancellor and Health Secretary were all Conservative).

It’s debatable whether “nurture” is the right word to use here though.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies calculates that Labour governments have tended to spend more on the health service than the Conservatives since 1979.

The average annual increase in real-terms health spending was 3.4 per cent under Conservative Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and John Major (1979 to 1997).

Average annual spending went up 5.9 per cent under Labour’s Tony Blair and Gordon Brown (1997 to 2010).

Spending increases fell to just over 1 per cent a year during the Coalition years and the King’s Fund think-tank estimates the current annual rise at 1.2 per cent.

Before 1979, the picture is less clear-cut. From 1951 to 1979, Labour government still presided over slightly bigger annual increases to health spending than the Conservatives.

That’s according to these figures from the Health Foundation, and is mainly due to cuts made by the Conservatives between 1951 and 1955.

The verdict

It’s true that Conservative governments have presided over the NHS for the majority of its life.

But for most of the years since the NHS was founded, it’s clear that Labour have out-spent the Conservatives.