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May to announce welcomed NHS funding surge of up to £6bn

The government will boost the NHS’s annual budget of up to £6bn in much-needed funding, the prime minister will announce next week.

Following months of calls for a surge in resources for the nation’s healthcare services, the move could see the NHS’s budget go up by between £4bn and £6bn per year, national media have reported.

The health industry has clamored for greater funding for the NHS for months, with the PM suggesting in March that a long-term funding plan for the health service will be created later this year.

Now, Number 10 has bucked the Conservative trend of allowing only a 1% funding yearly increase for the NHS, telling the treasury and chancellor Phillip Hammond to find the cash necessary to inject at least 3% of extra resources year on year, ahead of the NHS’s 70th anniversary next month.

Around £150bn was allocated to health in the UK in 2016-17, and the potential increase could mean as much as £20bn could be added to that fund by the next election.

National reports are suggesting that the announcement, due to be made early next week, will be funded by a combination of increased taxes and higher borrowing. In April a report suggested that more British taxpayers than ever were prepared to pay higher feeds to fund the NHS.

Speaking to an NHS Confederation event in Manchester yesterday, health secretary Jeremy Hunt said “the message is understood” that greater funding for health and social care is needed, but he noted that he “can’t make any commitments about the timing” of when the funding for both sectors will be put into place.

Hunt added that discussions on how much extra cash the NHS will receive “are difficult, they are ongoing”. He reiterated support for the argument for increasing funding as close to the 4% target as possible.

The treasury, however, has reaffirmed its stance that economic uncertainty alongside a weak economy this year and intense pressures on surrounding public services means it will make the sourcing of the extra funds a difficult task.

An Institute for Fiscal Studies and Health Foundation report this month claimed that a 3.3% increase was the minimum needed to maintain the quality of care at current levels, with between 4% and 5% making improvements in the standard of health services across the UK.

The NHS ‘can’t work miracles’

Anita Charlesworth, director of research and economics at the Health Foundation, told NHE last month that the NHS “can’t work miracles” and continue to be suffering with staff shortages and rising emergency demand.

She said: “The biggest challenge will be how to pay for a long-term settlement for the NHS and social care. The sums of money are huge – in England alone, the two services account for almost £1 in every £5 of public spending.

“The level of funding growth the NHS and care system need cannot be found within current government spending plans. Plan B might be to borrow more,” she added.

Yesterday the chair of the NHS Confederation Stephen Dorrell said the talk of health and social care funding was just “hot air” unless the two sectors collaborate.

Cllr Ray Puddifoot, executive member for health and care at the London Council’s network, said: “But as the NHS also appreciates, the financial challenges faced by health and social care services are deeply interconnected. The benefits of boosting NHS funding would be severely limited if the silo approach to funding continues and the issue of social care finances remains unaddressed.”

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Image credit:  Stefan Rousseau, PA Images


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