Autumn statement leaves NHS in trouble, warns former health secretary Lord Lansley

Former health secretary Lord Lansley has warned that the NHS faces a 'very difficult' period after the government's Autumn statement failed to announce new health and social care funding.

Conservative peer and former health secretary Lord Lansley (Photo: Emilie Sandy)

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's World at One programme, the former health secretary said that now was the time to put measures in place to support the NHS and social care.

He added that boosting social care provision enough to ease pressure on the health service could have been achieved with relatively little public funding.

Mr Lansley told World at One: 'The possibility of a substantial change in departmental expenditure was pretty unlikely, but not being surprised doesn’t mean I am not disappointed. The next couple of years are going to be very difficult and the time is now for trying to put some measures in place to help health and social care through those next two years.

'In the last parliament a challenging target for savings was set and it was achieved. The trouble is in this parliament what is being asked of the NHS is not only more of the same but even more.

NHS funding

'The rate of savings that has been asked is greater. What we need is to tackle some of the underlying problems. As the NHS themselves have said, actually probably the single biggest contribution that could be made to tackle this underlying problem would be to increase the level of social care provision. I don’t think that necessarily demands a lot of additional public funds.'

In his speech on the Autumn statement on Wednesday, chancellor Philip Hammond repeated the government's pledge to increase NHS funding by £10bn a year by 2020/21 - a figure that has been disputed by experts including Conservative health select committee chair and former GP Dr Sarah Wollaston who say the actual rise is less than half this amount.

NHS leaders widely criticised the Autumn statement as a 'missed opportunity' for health and social care.

In his announcement, Mr Hammond promised to maintain current departmental spending plans, under which NHS spending is protected, with spending rising only with inflation, until the next spending review in 2020 when plans will be reviewed.

In a House of Commons debate following the statement Mr Hammond said NHS trust deficits were ‘not particularly unusual’ and were being managed within the NHS. The Treasury, he said, would continue to keep a ‘very close eye’ on the NHS. A King's Fund report earlier this year found that around half of NHS trusts were predicting a year-end deficit, along with around a quarter of CCGs.

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