Wednesday, November 30, 2022

‘crisis basis’ NHS as real funding less than 10 years ago

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Health care will receive an additional £3.3bn in each of the next two years, while £4.7bn will go to social care, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced in his autumn statement on Thursday.

But the Health Foundation believes that while the increase in the NHS budget will offer “temporary respite”, health and care services will face “difficult trade-offs” on issues such as pay and backlog.

His analysis showed that spending will increase in “real” terms at 2% each year over the next two years.

The annual increase for the next two years is 1.2% in real terms, “which is below the average” of the decade before the pandemic (2%) and the historical average of around 3.8%, according to the analysis.

Anita Charlesworth, director of the Health Foundation, said: “Thursday’s statement offered short-term relief, especially when compared to other public services.

“But the reality is that the NHS will, at best, remain stationary as inflation bites and it faces mounting pressures from an aging population, pay, dealing with the backlog and ongoing Covid costs.

“And if other parts of the system – particularly social and community care – also face cost pressures, healthcare will become more difficult and the 2% will buy less.

“Efficiency can only take the NHS so far. As the Health Foundation’s analysis showed this week, we would have spent £73bn more each year since 2010 if we had kept pace with German health spending and £40bn more if we had kept pace with France.

“Without a greater recognition that our health is our wealth – and vice versa – and a greater focus on its long-term financial sustainability, the NHS is likely to remain on a crisis footing, with difficult trade-offs such as performance and rising waiting lists for the foreseeable future.”

The Health Foundation said the services are facing “a cocktail” of higher inflation, higher demand, ongoing costs from Covid, staff shortages and challenging efficiency requirements, with no room for improvement or modernization.

It also said England’s growing and aging population, NHS Long Term Plan commitments, long waiting lists for elective care and shortages of labor and pay are increasing pressure on the healthcare system.

The Principal of the Royal College of Nursing England, Patricia Marquis, said: “This analysis suggests that after a decade of low funding growth or – to pay for – real cuts such as nurses’ wages, NHS budgets should now be growing sharply, but are not.

“That the growth in healthcare funding in England has fallen from nearly 7% a year in the 2000s to just 1.2% a year in the 2010s speaks volumes.

“We have urged the government to be bold and embark on a radical new direction with serious investment in nursing, including fair pay, but this analysis seems only to confirm our worst fears that today’s ministers are holding on to yesterday’s ideas, for now more salary cuts.”

The Ministry of Health referred to the Chancellor’s speech and added no further comment.

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