IThis was one of the biggest spending by a chancellor in this century – a £150 billion increase in public spending over the next four years and the NHS would swallow up nearly a third.
In his budget speech to MPs on Wednesday, Rishi Sunak promised to increase total health spending to around £44 billion by 2024-25, an annual increase of 4.1 per cent in real terms.
NHS England’s share of pot will grow by 3.8 per cent a year in real terms.
Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said the increased spending was “more in common with Brown and Blair than with Osborne and Cameron”, indicating the scale of the increase.
The chancellor made no mistake that money for the NHS was designed to trigger a change in the fortunes of the ailing NHS. Much like we’ve heard about it before: 40 new hospitals, 70 upgrades, 100 new community diagnostic centers and more operating theaters.
The goal is clear. The NHS must get its backlog of operations and 5.7 million strong waiting lists under control.
Mr Sunak ended his speech with a clear ideological warning: “We have taken some corrective action to fund the NHS and get our debt under control.
“But as we look to the future, I want to say this simple thing to the House and the British people. My goal is to reduce taxes.”
He effectively served notices to NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard and health secretary Sajid Javid now that they must deliver.
But he did not say that his hands were tied behind his back.
An annual real growth of 3.8 percent after a decade of austerity sounds great, but is actually much closer to the average annual spending of 3.7 percent since the inception of healthcare in 1948.
And the budget had little detail about any effort to boost the workforce beyond an arbitrary pledge of 50,000 nurses which is almost certainly not enough. Likewise there was no new funding for social care to help prevent hospital admissions and evacuate people faster, apart from a new health and care levy.
Staff shortages are affecting the NHS at every level and cannot be fixed quickly. It seems that this requires long-term planning and the Chancellor has not made any provision for this.
NHS Providers, who represent NHS trusts, said the failure to act on the workforce was a “missed opportunity”.
Deputy Chief Executive Kesar Corddry said: “Workforce shortages and the resulting unstable workload on existing NHS staff are currently the health service’s biggest problems. They only need a strong long-term workforce plan and long-term investments in workforce expansion, education and training. Can only be dealt with with growth, none of which currently exist.
The health service has shown during the Covid-19 pandemic that it can deliver when given resources, but the starting point is one of weakness and dilapidation, about which ministers must be honest.
Structural vulnerabilities in the health sector – staff shortages, crumbling buildings, equipment shortages, social care collapse – risk acting as a major strain on NHS performance and may mean the Chancellor’s generosity simply isn’t enough .
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /