IFG calls for a parliamentary inquiry to find extra health care funding

22 Jun 18

The government should set up a parliamentary inquiry to decide where to raise extra funds for health and social care, a think-tank has said.

An Institute for Government report, released on Wednesday, said Theresa May’s pledge this week for an extra £20.5bn for the NHS over the next five years “falls short of what most experts estimate is needed”.

It said the notion that increased spending could be funded by a ‘Brexit dividend’ is “illusory” and if the government does now answer the question about how the additional funds are to be raised “any funding settlement is likely to provide unsustainable”.  

The report also noted the need for extra funding in the social care sector – “4% [annual increase] is the minimum needed to maintain existing standards”.

Social care leaders called for social care to receive a funding boost similar to that of the NHS, after May’s announcement on Monday.

An inquiry with a “high-profile, cross-party group of MPs and peers” would be most effective, the IfG suggested.

It should be set up quickly to feed into the 2019 Spending Review, and be led by a select committee chair, who would continue to champion its recommendations beyond the inquiry, the report said.

Nick Davies, programme director at the IfG, said: “Fixing health and social care funding is critical but implementing the tax rises, which are likely to be necessary to pay for it, will be controversial.

“A parliamentary inquiry offers the best hope of building sufficient political support for a solution.

“There is already cross-party support for the idea. Now is the time for the government to act.”

To ensure funding increases are provided consistently, the report suggested that an independent body, such as the Office for Budget Responsibility, oversee their allocation.

In a speech at Mansion House on Thursday, Philip Hammond indicated taxes would be likely to rise to pay for the £20.5bn increase announced on Monday. 

“Across the nation taxpayers will have to contribute a bit more in a fair and balanced way to support the NHS we all use,” he said.

A Department for Health Spokesperson said: “To secure the future of the health service as it approaches its 70th birthday, the prime minister and [health secretary] Jeremy Hunt have increased NHS funding by an average 3.4% per year, which will see the NHS receive £20.5bn a year in real terms by 2023.

“We will shortly outline the government's plans to reform social care to ensure it is sustainable for the future, including how to fund it.”

Hunt announced earlier this week the publication of the social care green paper - originally due out this summer - is now delayed until the autumn. 

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