Budget response: Patients alarmed at Chancellor’s short measure for the NHS


Responding to today’s Budget statement, Rachel Power, Chief Executive of the Patients Association, said: “Patients, their families and carers will not have been reassured by the Chancellor’s commitments today. He has rightly recognised that the current NHS funding settlement is inadequate, but he has fumbled his response: his cash injection will be inadequate for next year, and there is no sign of a shift to the sustainable long-term settlement for health and social care that we so desperately need.

“The extra £1.6 billion promised for next year is nowhere near the £4 billion calculated as necessary by leading health think tanks, just to keep services at their current levels. Instead, the Treasury appears to be demanding that the NHS return to meeting the 4-hour A&E target and reduce its waiting lists in return for the extra funding.

“Unfortunately, this is fantasy: this level of funding will not halt the slide in NHS performance, in which patients are waiting longer for surgery, being treated on trolleys in corridors, and increasingly being threatened with having to leave their homes just to receive day-to-day care. NHS England will have no choice but to continue its desperate scrabble for cash through measures such as restrictions on ‘low value’ and over-the-counter medicines.

“The Chancellor’s complete silence today on the ongoing crisis in social care is also deeply disappointing. The recent announcement of a green paper for next year, with its worrying split between over-65 and working age social care, does not mean there is not an urgent need to address the funding crisis in social care today. Shockingly, there is not a single mention of social care in the entire Red Book.

“The announcement on capital funding also promises more than it delivers: only £3.5 billion of the £10 billion touted by the Chancellor in his speech is new money – the rest comes from implementing the Naylor Review as already planned and an expectation of new private finance. That said, further resource for the vital task of transforming services to meet the needs of our changing population is welcome.

“Despite today’s dreadful growth and productivity forecasts, we remain a wealthy nation with a world class healthcare system that can deliver when given the tools (and we shouldn’t forget that the NHS’s productivity performance has been outstripping the economy as a whole by a mile in recent years). It should not be placed in the position of having to limit and reduce its services for sheer want of funds.

“Patients’ affection for the NHS should be matched by the confidence they can feel in its ability to care for them, and their loved ones. Instead, after today’s Budget, patients will look to the future wondering what the NHS won’t be able to do for them in the future that it can do today. The Chancellor has missed another chance to show leadership and secure the sustainability of the NHS for the long term.”

Notes to editors
The calculation by leading think tanks of the necessary funding increase to keep NHS services at current levels can be read here: https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/publications/autumn-budget-2017

The Patients Association’s pre-Budget submission to the Treasury can be read here: https://www.patients-association.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Representation-to-HM-Treasury-ahead-of-the-Autumn-Budget-2017.pdf

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