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22.05.17

Nuffield Trust: Party pledges fail to fully address NHS funding crisis

None of the three main political parties currently vying for control of government have pledged enough funding for the NHS, a group of leading health experts have warned.

Following the announcement of the three different party manifestos, which saw the Conservatives pledge an £8bn real terms funding rise over five years, Labour giving £30bn over the course of the next Parliament and the Lib Dems promising £6bn a year for health and social care, the Nuffield Trust stated that none of these amounts are enough to prop up the NHS’s finances.

In a report called ‘NHS Funding choices and the 2017 General Election’, the think tank set out four spending scenarios and calculated how much money each would require by the end of Parliament in 2022-23.

The Nuffield Trust concluded that none of the amounts committed by any of the parties would be enough to keep up with the real amount that the NHS would need when taking into account the rising cost of the health service over five years.

“How much we spend on the NHS is a choice that always involves a cost of some sort. We can choose to put more money into the health service, whether that is raised through higher taxes, more borrowing or changing other government spending priorities,” said report author and Nuffield Trust senior policy analyst Sally Gainsbury.

“But equally, not spending more also implies a cost, in terms of longer waits and deteriorating quality of care for patients, and failing to keep up with the latest drugs and medical treatments that may become available in other countries.” 

Professor John Appleby, another author of the report and Nuffield Trust chief economist and director of research, added: “After a week in which the three main parties in England have all claimed they are going to put significant extra funding into the health service, we thought it important to compare their pledges with some independent measures of where spending might be in five years’ time.

“What our new analysis shows is that in fact none of the parties’ promises matches even the lowest projections of what funding should be,” Prof Appleby also stated. “Spending as a proportion of GDP looks set to fall slightly whichever party forms the next government, unless additional funds can be found.”

The warning comes just after the BMA called for the NHS’s “Darwinian survival instinct,” to be resurrected to fund the NHS.

Health Foundation criticises Tory funding increases

This follows a similar warning last week from the Health Foundation which warned that a £12bn funding gap would be left by the Conservatives plans for NHS funding.

Though funding would not fall in real terms in the next two years, a huge gap would still open up as the Foundation stated that the gap would rise to £12bn by 2020-21.

Under the Conservatives’ manifesto plans, healthcare funding would not match the demand and cost pressures on the health service, which the independent OBR estimates at more than 4% a year above inflation,” said Anita Charlesworth, director of research and economics at the Health Foundation. 

“A projected £12bn funding gap by 2020-21 would require the NHS to continue to deliver major efficiency savings if quality and access to services are to be protected. 

“This is a stark reminder of the task ahead if England is to secure a sustainable NHS. With an ageing and growing population, new technologies and significant workforce pressures, increasing efficiency by more than 3% a year for the next five years would be very challenging.”

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editor's comment

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This edition of NHE comes hot on the heels of this year’s NHS Expo which, once again, proved to be a huge success at Manchester Central. A number of announcements were made during the event, with the health secretary naming the second wave of NHS digital pioneers, or ‘fast followers’, which follow the initial global digital exemplars who were revealed at the same show 12 months earlier.  Jeremy Hunt also stated that by the end of 2018 – the 70th birthday... read more >