NHS England spending review uplift at expense of other health services, economists warn

Health and care services face continued financial pressures despite the chancellor's announcement of extra funding, top health economists have said.

Nigel Edwards: spending review uplift for NHS England at expense of other sectors
Nigel Edwards: spending review uplift for NHS England at expense of other sectors

The chancellor confirmed an additional £3.8bn for the NHS in 2016/17, frontloading some of the £10bn a year increase promised by 2020.

Nuffield Trust chief executive Nigel Edwards said that a 25% cut to the DH budget announced by the chancellor represented a £1.5bn cut in a single year to budgets that include clinical training and public health.

Mr Edwards added that said that social care services would remain on the ‘brink of collapse’, despite new investment, leaving elderly people ‘marooned’ in hospital beds.

‘Yesterday’s announcement by the chancellor of £3.8bn of extra funding for the health service sounded generous, but it is now clear this may have come at the cost of services that the NHS depends on. Behind yesterday’s glowing headlines, there are some big unanswered questions,’ he said.

Spending review NHS funding

King’s Fund chief economist John Appleby said  the spending review ‘falls a long way short of the new settlement needed to place the NHS and social care on a sustainable footing for the future’.

‘The additional funding for the NHS and the decision to frontload this money next year is welcome. However, a significant chunk of this will be absorbed by additional pension costs and dealing with provider deficits, leaving little breathing space to invest in new services and unlock productivity improvements,' he said.

‘The new funding will stabilise services in the short term, but smaller increases later on in the parliament and the requirement to implement seven-day services will leave budgets stretched to the limit. Attention will now shift to the huge challenge of finding £22bn in efficiency savings by 2020/21, with the onus on the NHS to re-double efforts to improve productivity.

‘It is clear that a large chunk of the additional funding for the NHS has been found through substantial cuts to other DH budgets. The full details are not yet clear but cutting the public health budget is a false economy, undermining the government's commitments on prevention at a time when the need to improve public health is becoming increasingly urgent.’

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