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01.11.16

King’s Fund urges honesty on impact of ‘historically low’ NHS spending

The King’s Fund has warned that historically low NHS spending increases will not be enough to continue to meet demand for services by 2020, and has called for honesty over the consequences facing elderly patients as a result, Chris Ogden reports.

Yesterday in the House of Commons, the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, confirmed that the NHS will receive an increase of £10bn by 2020 as part of the FYFV, with £6bn of this frontloaded over the next two years. The NHS budget is due to reach £119.9bn by 2020-21. 

Hunt was answering an urgent question from MPs to make a statement on NHS funding following criticism from the Health Select Committee that the £10bn figure claimed by the government is inaccurate.

Richard Murray, director of policy for The King’s Fund, said: “While it is correct that NHS spending will rise over the next few years, these are low increases by historic standards. Given our ageing population, they will not be enough for the NHS to continue to meet demand for services and deliver current standards of care.

“The government will either need to find more money for the NHS in 2018-19 and 2019-20, when funding will barely increase in real terms, or else be honest about what the consequences of not doing this are likely to be.”

During the session, the chair of the Health Select Committee, Dr Sarah Wollaston, explained the committee’s concerns, stating that achieving the aims of the FYFV is dependent on radical upgrades in public health and prevention and adequate funding of adult social care.

Dr Wollaston asked the health secretary to recognise the “serious crisis” facing social care and the effect that “continuing raids on the NHS capital budget” is having on those aims.

Hunt maintained that the government’s use of the £10bn figure is not incorrect, stating that this was the figure calculated by NHS England as to what it needs to implement the FYFV, with the £6bn frontloaded at Simon Stevens’ request.

However, he accepted that “painful and difficult economies” in central budgets will be needed to fund that plan, encouraging hospitals to make better use of their current resources.

“I fully accept that what happens in the social care system and in public health have a big impact on the NHS, but on social care we have introduced a precept for local authorities combined with an increase in the Better Care Fund. This is a precept which 144 of 152 local authorities are taking advantage of,” Hunt said.

“That means that a great number of them are increasing spending on social care. It will come on top of the deeper, faster integration of the health and social care systems that we know needs to happen.”

Despite this, the King’s Fund praised the committee for raising attention to the government’s need to increase social care funding over the coming years.

“We welcome the members of the Health Committee highlighting the importance of increasing funding for social care after years of budget cuts,” Murray said. “As the Care Quality Commission has recently said, the social care market is approaching a tipping point and there are real fears about whether the market will continue to be sustainable.”

(Image: c. Isabel Infantes EMPICS Entertainment)

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