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Providers warn budget may be ‘swallowed up’ by NHS austerity recovery challenge

Providers have warned that any new funding for the NHS is being “swallowed up” by efforts to recover from almost a decade of austerity, and have urged the government to use the Budget to commit more funding.

Ahead of the Autumn Budget on Monday, NHS Providers has submitted its case for more funding, which it says is needed to recover performance for a sector which is being undermined by trusts struggling to recruit and retain the staff they need to meet demand.

Despite a 3.4% real terms funding increase, the body which represents all 227 acute, mental health, community and ambulance trusts says that there is an ongoing gap between growing demand and funding levels.

This has left the NHS catching up against key targets, with stresses on the workforce being exasperated by more and more staff leaving the service due to increasing strain and impact of years of pay restraint, NHS Providers say.

Earlier this month, the chief executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson, called for a “reset” of performance and financial targets in the 10-year plan, and said that local NHS leaders need more powers and a “reimagined” relationship with central leaders.

Its report also points to social care services and other areas of service not included in the funding uplift, leaving healthcare unable to keep pace with growing demand at a time when local authorities are seeing their budgets cut.

NHS Providers also warned that Brexit continues to bring uncertainty to the health service, and underspending on capital projects is contributing to a growing backlog of maintenance issues and delaying trusts from digitalising their services.

In response to the problems, NHS Providers has called on the chancellor to commit to funding to help develop the NHS’s existing workforce through education and training, and to set aside funding to employ more staff needed to meet growing demand.

The deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery, said: “All eyes will be on the chancellor to set out how the welcome funding uplift for the NHS will be paid for and what the NHS will be expected to deliver.

“After almost a decade of austerity, in which growing demand has outstripped funding increases, significant gaps against key performance targets have opened up.

“We must be honest about the time and investment it will take to recover this performance and the impact that will have on other commitments. We hope the chancellor acknowledges this.”

NHS Providers has also asked the chancellor to ensure sufficient funding is made available to trusts for capital and land sales, and for Hammond to help reverse cuts to public health budgets to shift the balance towards longer-term investment.

Cordery added: “For this additional funding to provide maximum benefit, we must see investment in wider services that the NHS critically depends.

“Health and care services are intertwined. This underinvestment risks devaluing every pound of investment in the NHS.”

Top image: Stefan Rousseau via PA Wire


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