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Leaders call for new money as Budget does ‘nothing’ to address NHS funding gap

Whilst extra funding for social care is a step forward for improving the condition of healthcare, doctors have raised concern that it will not do enough from saving the NHS from a situation which was described as close to “Armageddon” this week.

Apart from funding allocations for advanced STPs and £100m for A&E triage schemes, little was done to address the NHS in Phillip Hammond’s Spring Budget. Although there was an additional £2bn put aside for social care for the next two years, with half of that figure being made available in 2017-18, as NHE’s sister publication PSE reported.

This has prompted a strong backlash from many health sector leaders who argue that fixing the NHS requires more than just social care funding, but fresh money to prop up a health service that is at risk of completely failing.

Responding to the chancellor’s spring budget, Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair, sharply criticised the announcement, saying: “This budget does nothing to address the gaping hole in NHS finances. There is a £30bn gap to fill and we should be increasing the UK’s health spending by at least £10.3bn to match that of other leading European economies.

“The NHS and social care are at breaking point and have been failed by party politics for too long. We need politicians from all sides to come together to agree a long-term solution to the challenges facing health and social care.

We have a crisis in social care happening right now, so any funding to help provide the care patients so clearly need is a help. Failures within the social care system hugely affect an already stretched, overworked and underfunded NHS – most NHS trust finance directors have said that cuts in local authority social care budgets are adversely affecting NHS services. For doctors to look after patients well, social care needs to be well-funded and adequately staffed.”

Dr Porter also pushed the government for clarity on how it will fund and recruit GPs to work on site at hospitals when there already aren’t enough to meet the needs of the public.

“Many are already working in practices with permanent vacancies which they are unable to fill, despite government promises at the last election to recruit 5,000 more doctors into general practice,” he said. “Our health service is one of the best in the world, but is, increasingly, failing too many people for too much of the time. Put simply, today’s budget does not go far enough to address this.”

The Nuffield Trust also commented that the provision made available for social care was insufficient to properly address the sector’s issues.

Nigel Edwards, CEO of the health think-tank, said: “The £2bn announced for social care over the next three years is welcome and desperately needed – but the £1bn share of that cash promised for next year will plug only half of the funding gap we’ve identified for that year.”

Edwards also went on to add that the £1bn made available for social care would only go far enough in covering the £1bn that has already been cut from local council budgets over the last five years.

He added: “More and more vulnerable people are therefore going to be denied the help they need in the next year.

“It’s good news that the government has recognised the need for a complete reform of the whole system of paying for care in later life, but there have already been four independent reviews of this subject in the last two decades, none of which have led to significant change – so this one will need to lead to concrete action to make any difference.”

While welcoming the social care funding, Saffron Cordery, NHS Providers director of policy and strategy, reiterated that it will only go some of the way to meeting a shortfall which was widely expected to reach £2bn in 2017-18.

We need to find a long-term sustainable solution to how we fund and support social care services. This not a new problem but it is an urgent one. We therefore welcome the chancellor’s announcement of a green paper and will contribute to it. It’s important that we don’t start again from scratch – the recent reviews by Andrew Dilnot and Kate Barker for The King’s Fund provide comprehensive analysis of the problem and some potential solutions,” she said.

“The chancellor’s initiatives are helpful and will provide much needed support in the short term. But they do not by themselves provide sustainable solutions for the NHS and care services over the medium to long term. The gap between what the NHS is being asked to deliver and the resources available will continue to grow.”

The chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, also said that the funding was still not enough to fix social care and ease pressure on NHS services, saying: “The entire health and social care system is in crisis so the extra funding for social care is a good start, but it is only a short-term sticking plaster and we must make sure that the extra investment and additional GPs promised by NHS England in the GP Forward View do not fall by the wayside.

“When social care is not properly resourced, it has a serious impact on patients and creates a knock-on effect on the care GPs and our teams can provide.”

She also made the point for greater integration of health and social care, arguing: “We must start seeing good healthcare as a tripod, with robust general practice, hospital and social care services as three linked elements; all must be appropriately resourced, and work together seamlessly, so that we can deliver care that is in the best interests of patients.”

The RGCP executive then repeated the organisation’s previous calls for a review of the entire health and social care sector rather than just the green paper into social care that was announced at the Budget yesterday.

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