Tobacco firms, tax avoiders and "mansion" owners will be targeted to pay for a £2.5 billion NHS recruitment drive if Labour takes power, Ed Miliband said.
In his final party conference speech before the general election, the Opposition leader said creating a "world class" health and social care system was one of the six main goals in his 10-year plan to restore the UK's fortunes.
A "Time to Care" fund would be created to tackle shortages that have left wards and surgeries dangerously understaffed, and transform a "creaking" home care system, he pledged.
Its first priority will be the recruitment of 20,000 nurses, 8,000 GPs, 3,000 midwives and 5,000 care workers, as part of a wider shift to a more integrated health and care system proposed by the party.
The cash will come from a new annual "mansion tax" on £2 million-plus homes, a US-style levy on cigarette manufacturers and a promise to find ways to close tax loopholes that the party says cost the Treasury £1.1 billion.
"We won't borrow a penny to do it," he told the gathering in Manchester where shadow chancellor Ed Balls yesterday warned activists that austerity would continue under Labour - including a fresh squeeze on child benefit. "And we won't do it by raising taxes on everyday working people."
Instead those paying for the improvement would be tax-dodging hedge funds, tobacco giants "who make soaring profit on the back of ill health" and those wealthy enough to own large homes, he said.
"Doing it together means everyone playing their part to help fund our NHS. The stakes are incredibly high in this election. But nowhere more than on the NHS. The NHS is sliding backwards under this Government. They are privatising and fragmenting it. Just think what it would look like after five more years. It is not safe in their hands.
Miliband stressed the party's commitment to fiscal discipline, insisting a "world class" country can be achieved without "big spending".
Ed Balls was pressed on the plan during The Huffington Post fringe on Monday but refused to be draw, fuelling speculation that the policy was being held back for Miliband's speech today.Suggest a correction