Budget disappointment for health

Chancellor Gordon Brown has been widely criticised for shying away from health issues in his 10th Budget speech.

His speech came in the wake of a DoH denial that the health system was in financial crisis, despite service cutbacks and job losses across England (GP, 17 March).

Conservative shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley was quick to accuse the chancellor of 'abandoning the NHS'.

'For years, ministers at the DoH have been incapable of delivering reform. In today's Budget, Gordon Brown stopped calling for it,' he said.

NHS Alliance chairman Dr Michael Dixon said he was not surprised that Mr Brown did not provide any extra resources to help with deficits. He thought the chancellor would want to see that trusts had proper financial management in place before promising more investment.

However, minor changes in taxation might affect the business side of general practice.

Valerie Martin, national medical director for accountants PKF, thought that partnership agreements could be affected.

She said the Budget had been scant on detail, so GPs should consult accountants over transactions between practice partners following changes to tax administration, notably around land tax and commercial leases.

Simon Brook, a partner at chartered accountants Price Bailey said that the tax return deadline dates were being brought forward by several months from 2008, which would affect practices.

Also, changes to employee tax rules means that GPs supplying IT hardware to employees would be subject to restrictions.

Mr Brown outlined plans to fund medical research through the Medical Research Council and NHS research in a combined single budget worth £1 billion.

He said a research institute modelled on America's National Institutes of Health would be established once an agreement could be reached on the way forward.

But his announcements were mostly notable for omissions.

BMA deputy chairman Dr Sam Everington said he was 'dismayed' by the chancellor's lack of information on doctors' pay.

'He did not mention doctors who are at the front line,' he said. 'Doctors deserve a fair pay award that reflects their hard work and commitment to bringing down waiting times for patients and innovating new treatments and pathways.'

Phil Milligan, chairman of the Institute of Healthcare Management, said: 'There will be some disappointment that the chancellor has missed the opportunity to announce funding to support the public health commitments outlined in the recent health White Paper.'

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