The NHS will receive an extra £3.3bn in each of the next two years, the chancellor has announced, but experts warn the cash is probably only half of what is needed to keep the health service afloat.
Jeremy Hunt told the Commons during his autumn statement he had been assured the funding would mean the NHS can hit its “key priorities”. Its chief executive, Amanda Pritchard, later issued a statement welcoming the funding, saying it showed that “the government has been serious about its commitment to prioritise the NHS”.
However, it was only last month that NHS England, the organisation Pritchard leads, had forecast a £7bn shortfall in its funding next year, which it warned it could not plug with efficiency measures alone.
“The NHS warned it needed more money to cope with the impact of inflation on its costs,” said Nigel Edwards, the chief executive of the independent thinktank Nuffield Trust. “Today’s autumn statement has provided much-needed extra cash from April over the next two years, but this is only around half of what the NHS had warned last month would likely be needed.”
Hunt pledged to grow the NHS budget in 2023-24 and 2024-25 by £3.3bn in each year.
But Edwards warned that would not account for the £2.5bn worth of inflation and other unexpected cost pressures the NHS has faced in the current financial year.
“The impact of today’s funding announcement is that real terms health spending per head after adjusting for age will increase by less than 1% for the next two years,” Edwards added. “This is compared to the long-term average of 2.6% and comes at a time when the NHS cannot afford to stand still and is desperately trying to increase the work it can do to clear record waiting times.”
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Source: The Guardian, 17 November 2022