In his keynote address Mr Farron said the UK has “the best health professionals in the world”, but lacked the funding to match.
He also thanked delegates for all they do and acknowledged the challenges they face.
He said a Liberal Democrat government would raise £30 billion for the NHS through a 1p rise in income tax, with £6 billion a year over five years going into a ring-fenced health and social care budget.
He also pledged to restore bursaries for nursing and midwifery students and increase public sector pay.
Highlighting the 14% real terms pay cut nursing staff have received since 2010, Mr Farron said staff had been badly treated by the Government.
“If you undervalue nurses, don’t be surprised if they leave the profession. The time to invest in health and care has come and not a moment too soon.”
Addressing the results of the RCN’s pay-poll, to which more than 50,000 members responded indicating a desire for industrial action, Mr Farron said he understood how staff have been driven to this point.
“If you spend time with health care professionals you understand how utterly dedicated they are to what they do. It’s not a decision you’ve taken lightly. It’s something you do because you have concern for your patients.”