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06.03.17

BMA calls for £10bn budget boost to match European health spending

The UK should follow the example of other leading economies and provide £10bn extra funding for health care when Phillip Hammond announces the Spring Budget on Wednesday, a letter penned by British Medical Association (BMA) chair Dr Mark Porter has stated.

Dr Porter had written the letter to the chancellor in the hope that the government will listen to the warnings from the union and match the average health spending of Europe’s top 10 economies of 10.4% of their GDP as opposed to Britain’s current level which stands at 9.8%.

The definition for spend by GDP takes into account the average consumption of healthcare goods and services including personal healthcare, rehabilitative and long-term care, as well as health administration and public health agencies.

Had the UK matched this level of funding in 2015, the NHS would have enjoyed £10.3bn more funds to support healthcare and increase the number of beds as well as employ more GPs for frontline care services, Dr Porter argued. Half of this amount, he stated, could have gone to providing 35,000 more hospital beds whilst a further £3bn of the fund could have been used to increase the number of GPs in the country by 10,000, covering costs for doctors, associated staff and premises costs.

In the letter, he wrote: “The crisis facing the NHS and social care is well known and becoming increasingly severe – the government cannot remain a bystander any longer.

“An entire system under such strain is not due to frontline financial mismanagement, or individual chief executives’ poor decision making, it is due to the conscious underinvestment in our health service.”

Dr Porter also spoke on behalf of the BMA’s members, who have reported that services were close to breaking point with unprecedented rising patient demand being met with financial restraint and directives for the NHS and social care to make, as he describes it “huge, unachievable savings through sustainability and transformation plans across England”.

He added: “We are not calling for more than other comparable nations, we are simply calling for you to match the average spending of other leading European economies.”

Dr Porter’s call for funding comes just days after the Public Accounts Committee published a report which said politicians and health leaders must find money for the NHS organisations that are being hit the hardest as well as come up with a “transparent and clear” transformation plan for the future.

A CQC report into the state of NHS hospital trusts also warned that a lack of funds for NHS hospitals meant that they were currently standing on a “burning platform” where trusts could not cope with high demand for services, leading to “blind spots” being created where care was not delivered to a high standard in certain core services.

NHS organisations have also echoed Porter's call for extra health funding, as NHS Confederation also repeated the message that the NHS required additional funding to deliver high quality care to patients in the future. 

A spokesperson for NHS Confederation said: "We understand that the government has spared the NHS from some of the more severe cuts affecting other parts of the public sector, but this same period has witnessed unprecedented rising demand and unprecedented low growth in health spending.

"The NHS has managed better over the last few years than many predicted – it has been more resilient and done well to deliver the current levels and quality of service.

"But there is a need for a frank admission about the limitations as to what patients can expect, and a willingness at national level to acknowledge that services must be able to prioritise what they can and cannot provide."

The organisation also expressed the need to address the crisis in social care, saying that the sector had been "ignored and underfunded", adding that "we are now at a critical point where local councils despite their best efforts are incapable of keeping up with demand, leaving more than one million older people in real need without any support whatsoever and health services, including mental health, overwhelmed". 

NHS Confederation concluded: "The NHS and local government must play their part – funding should be conditional on reform, joined up services on the ground, and an absolute commitment to patients and others who use services rather than sectional or organisational interests.” 

A DH spokesperson said: "We are committed to the NHS, which is why total health spending is above the OECD average as a percentage of GDP, and why we are investing £10 billion in the NHS's own plan for the future, including almost £4 billion this year.

They added: "What's more, the NHS was ranked the best and most efficient healthcare system in the world by the independent Commonwealth Fund, showing that we make every bit of spending count”.

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