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Day-to-day spending to fall by up to £1bn despite Budget injection, Health Foundation says

An analysis of the Autumn Budget by the Health Foundation has found that day-to-to-day spending on the wider health budget will fall by up to £1bn in real terms by next year.

Despite welcome announcement from the chancellor that £2bn will be earmarked for mental health services and an extra £650m for social care, among other funding boosts as part of the NHS £20bn funding pledge announced earlier this year, the Health Foundation’s analysis has found that the Budget excludes “vital health spending where funding is also desperately needed.”

Areas overlooked by the Budget, according to the Health Foundation, include public health, workforce training, and capital investment.

This means that the Department of Health and Social Care’s (DHSC) budget will only rise by 2.7% in 2019-20, which is less than the minimum 3.3% required for the NHS to ‘stand still’ in the face of growing demand and financial pressures.

Anita Charlesworth, director of research and economics for the Health Foundation, said: “If the government wants to avoid further cuts to education and public health, it will need to shift all of the planned capital growth to day to day resource budgets.

She added that the freeze on the use of PFI could leave the health service with a £3bn gap in its capital investment budget following major underinvestment in building and infrastructure as capital spending in the NHS fell by 20% in real terms over the last three years.

For mental health services to see improvement so that seven in 10 people could access services – rather than the ‘status quo’ of just four in 10 – mental health services would need an extra £1.5bn on top of what the chancellor has already pledged.

Additionally, despite the cash injection, social care spending will only increase by 2.9% in real terms, which will not help to meet growing demand or improve services.

“Drip feeding short-term cash injections is not the way to manage this vital public service,” Charlesworth continued. “It will not address the manifest unfairness in a system which leaves those in need without help and provides no protection for people from catastrophic care costs.”

And whilst extra money has been promised to local authorities for social care, £200m is set to be cut from public health services (which have seen £500m already cut since 2014-15), which runs counter to the government’s dialogue of emphasising prevention. To reverse these damaging cuts, public health services would need £3.2bn according to research from the foundation.

Charlesworth concluded: “While NHS front-line services will receive a real terms uplift, the same cannot be said for wider public services that have a direct impact on people’s health. It will be vital that the government addresses this in the forthcoming spending review.

“Resolution Foundation analysis shows that spending on unprotected public services will continue to fall on a per person basis unless the Chancellor finds extra money for next year’s spending review. This means areas of public spending such as education, which are key to people’s good health, face further reductions.”

Top image: Stefan Rousseau via PA WirePA Images


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