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05.12.12

Hunt reprimanded by UK Statistics Authority over spending claims

The Conservatives have been rebuked for claiming that spending on the NHS has increased in real terms under the Coalition Government, after the UK Statistics Authority found that the health budget actually fell very slightly.

The chairman of the independent statistics watchdog, Andrew Dilnot, has written to health secretary Jeremy Hunt upholding a complaint by Labour that Treasury data actually shows health spending was lower in 2011-12 than in 2009-10.

Hunt and Prime Minister David Cameron have repeated their pre-election pledge that real terms spending had increased and the Conservative Party website also stated that the Government had increased the NHS budget “in real terms in each of the last two years”.

Dilnot wrote: “On the basis of these figures, we would conclude that expenditure on the NHS in real terms was lower in 2011-12 than it was in 2009-10.”  He added: “In light of this, I should be grateful if the Department of Health could clarify the statements made.”

Shadow health secretary, Andy Burnham said: “David Cameron famously promised he would cut the deficit, not the NHS.

“We now have it in black and white: he has cut the NHS, not the deficit. The Prime Minister must come to the House of Commons at the earliest opportunity and correct the record.”

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: “The 2010-11 year should not be used a baseline for NHS spending because the budget and spending plans were set in place by the previous government.

“For the first year of this Government's spending review, as Andrew Dilnot acknowledges, NHS spending increased in real terms compared to the previous year by 0.1%. The NHS budget will continue to increase in real terms during every year of the current spending review settlement.”

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at opinion@nationalhealthexecutive.com

Image c. DCMS

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