NHS budgets ‘not keeping up with demand for drugs’

27 Apr 18

Spending required for drugs is growing faster than NHS budgets, a health charity has said. 

NHS spending on medicine has increased by an average of 5% annually since 2010, going from £13bn in 2010-11 to £17.4bn in 2016-17, the King’s Fund said in a report released yesterday.

“The rate of increase is substantially faster than for the total NHS budget over the same period,” the charity pointed out. 

“Growth in spending on medicines [is] outstripping growth in funding.”

It added: “Without a new funding settlement for the NHS, policy-makers are likely to face increasingly difficult choices.”

The charity noted that the NHS has tried to promote value for money in medicine spending, by introducing a budget impact test for new products - a scheme that will cost more than £20m to provide each year.

But Helen McKenna, senior policy adviser at The King’s Fund, said: “Rising demand for health care coupled with newer, more expensive treatments and an unprecedented funding squeeze means the NHS is now struggling to strike a balance between the competing priorities of access, innovation and affordability.”

She added: “There is a risk of returning to the 1990s, when funding pressures led to widespread concern about the erosion of patients’ access to medicines.”

The report coincides with an interim report, commissioned by the Institute for Public Policy Research think-tank, which said the NHS needed an extra £50bn in funding to maintain the current service delivery.

The report, led former Labour health minister Lord Darzi, found that without change demand pressures will rise to £200bn by 2030 and that adult social care alone would require an extra £10bn.

Darzi estimated that to cope with increased demands caused by an aging population, the NHS budget would need to increase to £173bn by 2030 and this would need to be supplemented by increased productivity.

Izzi Seccombe chair of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board said: “The forecast that adult social care will need an extra £10bn by 2030 just to maintain existing service provision- a more dire position than that facing the NHS- must serve as a wake-up call for concerted action to address the serious financial challenges adult social care is experiencing now and will continue to face in years to come without a sustainable funding solution.”

The full report will be published in July to coincide with the NHS’ 70th birthday.

Last month, Theresa May promised a multi-year funding plan for the NHS.

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