May promises multi-year funding for NHS

28 Mar 18

Theresa May has promised she will provide a multi-year funding settlement for the NHS, to a panel of Commons’ select committee chairs.

The prime minister said the government intends to “get away” from the “annual approach to the NHS budget” and “annual top-ups of the budget”, at a liaison committee session yesterday.

She said a long-term sustainable financial plan for the NHS was a “critical priority” for her and would be drawn up before the end of the year, ahead of next year’s spending review.

“We need to get away from this annual approach to the NHS budget and recognise that for the NHS to plan and manage effectively, we need to get away from those annual top-ups of the budget,” she told the committee.

“We do need to have a sustainable, long-term plan that should build on the work of the five year forward view but we should look beyond it to a plan that allows the NHS to realise greater productivity and efficiency gains.”

The NHS’s five year forward view was published in 2014 and set out a vision for the NHS around new models of care.

She said the government would work with the NHS, clinicians and health experts to draw up the plan.

“The government will provide a multi-year funding settlement in support of the plan, consistent with our fiscal rules and balanced approach, but ensuring that the NHS can cope with the rising demand ahead of the spending review,” she added.

May said it was “ultimately for the government to take decisions about spending priorities” but was happy to meet with “other parliamentarians to discuss” to ensure they had greater involvement in funding discussions.

Referring to a letter, now endorsed by 102 MPs from across parties, calling for a parliamentary commission on health and social care, she said: “I am not convinced that the precise parliamentary commission you propose in your letter is the answer.”

The signatures on the letters included those of 21 select committee chairs, and also expressed concern the upcoming social care green paper focused solely on funding needs for older people. 

A spokesperson for CIPFA said: “[The] NHS cannot achieve financial sustainability without this kind of long-term approach.

“It is now crucial that the government ensures any financial settlement is sufficient to support further investment in prevention and transformation to meet the growing needs of our ageing and expanding population.” 

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said: “It is vital that as part of any long-term funding settlement for the NHS, the government also considers the need to support social care.

“They are two sides of the same coin which must be addressed together to provide a health and care system that delivers the best possible care for patients.”

Anita Charlesworth, director of research and economics at the Health Foundation, said: “Evidence shows the health and care system will need increases of over 4% a year above inflation to be sustainable, yet spending will have increased by just 1.2% a year in real terms over this decade, the lowest of any decade since the NHS was founded.”

Chris Ham, chief executive of The King’s Fund, said May's announcement was a “big moment” and “an opportunity that should not be lost”.

Yesterday the Public Accounts Committee said that NHS finances were in “survival mode”.

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