Economic trouble 'will not affect NHS funding'

Recession - The health secretary Alan Johnson has assured NHS employers that all salaries and budgets are safe.

NHS salaries, pensions and budgets are safe despite the economic crisis, health secretary Alan Johnson has said.

The NHS is well placed to deal with the crisis, he told the NHS Employers annual conference in Birmingham last week.

The health secretary was responding to delegates' fears about the economy and private sector involvement in the NHS.

All NHS salaries, pensions and budgets were safe and affordable, he said, but careful planning was needed for the next five years.

'We must ensure every penny is well spent,' he said.

The health secretary advised delegates not to get 'too hung up on the private sector', saying that 95 per cent of care was provided by NHS staff.

He said the DoH did not prefer either private or public sector providers. 'The issue has to be what is best for patients,' he said.

A focus on preventive medicine and new GP surgeries in under-doctored areas would avert the potential health crisis that a recession could cause, Mr Johnson added.

Delegates were also assured that training budgets - often the first to be cut if money is tight - were safe and trusts' surpluses would not be clawed back.

'It is absolutely crucial we put money into personal development budgets that were cut back during the move from deficit to surplus - and that won't happen again,' he said.

GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman welcomed the health secretary's assurances. 'We are cushioned from many of the effects of the credit crunch in the NHS. I think he's right, but I'm still pleased to hear it.'

Dr Buckman said the top worry for GPs in the economic crisis was premises funding.

tom.ireland@haymarket.com

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