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Health Secretary accused of exaggerated NHS funding claims

Health economists say claimed sixth-biggest funding on record is actually the 28th biggest increase

Ingrid Torjesen

Friday, 13 May 2016

Jeremy Hunt has exaggerated the amount of funding he has given the NHS, an investigation of the figures by the think tank The King’s Fund has revealed.

The Health Secretary has claimed that the funding increase he gave the NHS in 2015/16 was “the sixth-biggest increase” in funding in its history. However, an analysis of funding allocations to the health service over the last 41 years by The King’s Fund has revealed that Mr Hunt has given the NHS its 28th biggest funding increase since 1975/75, rather than the sixth. The economists said that accurate data does not exist for any increases between 1948 and 1975.

Professor John Appleby, King’s Fund’s chief economist, writes in a blog that the government often quotes that an extra £3.8 billion has been given to NHS England this year, but the correct measure of total NHS spending is the Department of Health budget, which will rise by the lower figure of £1.8 billion. “This includes training of staff, investment in public health, regulation of quality, and national planning and support for providers. These are fundamental aspects of the quality of the NHS as a whole, and there is no logical reason to consider just one part of the NHS budget,” he says.

Mr Hunt’s claims do not take into account inflation in different eras, which would impact on purchasing power, Appleby adds, and says the proper comparison is to look at the percentage change in real-terms increases in funding. “Clearly an increase of £1.8 billion would have had a much larger impact in 1975/76 when the budget was around £30 billion (in 2016/17 prices) compared to today’s budget of £120 billion. It would be 6.7 per cent for the 1975/76 budget, compared to 1.6 per cent today. So the fairest comparison is to measure the real-terms percentage increase in each year.

“On this basis we calculate that this year’s total NHS real-spend increase of 1.6 per cent is the 28th largest increase since 1975/6.”

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