“… In January the government unveiled its much-awaited Long Term Plan for the NHS. It caused quite a stir. In the runup to the NHS’ 70th birthday, the Prime Minister committed to a real term annual 3.4% increase in funding for frontline care between 2019/20 to 2023. The “plan” reaffirmed this commitment. However, the problem with this commitment is that it simply doesn’t meet the needs of the NHS.
For a start, all independent experts including the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Health Foundation, Kings Fund and the Nuffield Trust have stated that this amount will only allow the NHS to continue providing the same level of care it is currently providing. In short services, won’t and can’t improve with this level funding.
In fact, it is more likely that performance will deteriorate once we take into account the context of an ageing population with long-term, complex and chronic conditions. All of the aforementioned commentators agree that a 4% increase is the bare minimum required to even begin improving services.
What’s more, none of this funding will be going towards public health initiatives. Historically, local authorities have funded services providing sexual health services, alcohol services, drug services and other public health services through the Public Health Grant.
A grant from central government to local government. But this grant has been butchered by the Conservatives. Between 2014/15 and 2019/20 it has suffered a real term cut of £700m. That amounts to nearly a fall of 25% per person across the entire country. As a result, improvements in life expectancy are now stalling – according to the Health Foundation think tank – for the first time in 100 years.
Similarly, the funding won’t be going towards capital expenditure. This is what allows NHS Trusts to spend on core infrastructure, both physical and digital. As well as medical equipment and medical devices such as scanners for cancer and ambulances. Between 2010/11 and 2014/15 capital spending was subjected to a 17% cut. In more recent years, its budget has been consistently raided in order to prop up social care and the day-to-day running of front-line NHS services. In 2018 Jeremy Hunt raided £1bn from the budget to go towards funding social care.
Not only is such an action perverse in light of the fact that the Conservatives have subjected social care to an overall cut of £7bn since 2010, it was also a brazen example of the short term thinking which has led to the breaking down of ambulances during last years “winter crisis”, the breaking down of CT scanners, blocked drains and sewage leaking into clinical facilities, leaks from ceilings going onto active operating tables and even the collapse of an entire floor of an NHS hospital. …”