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08.11.17

Stevens: Brexit funding promises must be honoured

The NHS should receive the funding promised by the leave campaign during the European Union referendum last year, Simon Stevens has stated today.

Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, used his speech at the annual NHS Providers conference today to implore central government for the extra funding.

Although Stevens did not call for the exact £350m per week infamously advertised on the side of Vote Leave’s campaign bus, he did demand the government ensure promises made during the campaign were kept.

The chief executive said a failure to honour these vows would create more division and distrust between politicians and voters.

He added: “Trust in democratic politics will not be strengthened if anyone now tries to argue: 'You voted Brexit, partly for a better funded health service. But precisely because of Brexit, you now can't have one.'

“A modern NHS is itself part of the practical answer to the deep social concerns that gave rise to Brexit.

“At a time of national division, an NHS that brings us together. An institution that tops the list of what people say makes them proudest to be British. Ahead of the Army, the monarchy or the BBC. Unifying young and old, town and country, the struggling and the better off.”

In addition, health secretary Jeremy Hunt – speaking at the conference with Stevens – said the NHS should be the first port of call for any dividend which comes from Brexit.

Stevens’ major concern was a fear that chancellor Philip Hammond might use the chaos currently surrounding Britain’s exit from the EU as a reason not to increase NHS funding or give dedicated investment to key areas.

The problems are reinforced by Hunt’s initially well received claim that workers in the NHS would no longer be subject to the 1% public sector pay cap. While an increase in pay would be gratefully accepted by many staff, there are fears that it could place even more stress on a very tense system if more funding is not provided by government to cover costs.

The £350m figure has been widely contested since the referendum result, with many claiming the numbers to be a false indication of the benefits of leaving the EU.

Top image: Stefan Rousseau PA Wire

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