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Lead medics urge government to be honest over NHS spending

‘Year-on-year cuts’ are not ‘efficiency savings’, says the BMA

Jo Carlowe

Tuesday, 01 November 2016

Doctor and nurse leaders have added their voices to the call for “honesty” from the government over NHS funding. 

Yesterday, OnMedica reported that the Parliamentary health committee had written to Chancellor Philip Hammond asking him to look again at the funding settlement for the NHS. The Health Select Committee said the government’s claims of an additional £10 billion going on health spending were “significantly overstating the actual amount”, which was more like “£4.5 billion between 2015-16 and 2020-21”.

Responding to this news, Dr Mark Porter, the British Medical Association’s chair of council, said: “The BMA has been urging this Government to be honest about NHS funding for some time and our calls are now being echoed by experts and interested parties from all sides of the political landscape now. 

“The prime minister and chancellor need to explain how exactly the NHS will keep up with rising demand without the necessary investment. Theresa May talks about injecting £10 billion into the NHS, yet in reality the increase in health spending is less than half of that.

“The NHS is already the most efficient health care system in the world. The notion that the funding crisis can be solved with further efficiency savings is a myth, and these are not savings, they are year-on-year cuts that have driven almost every acute trust in England into deficit, led to a crisis in general practice and a community and social care system on the brink of collapse.”

He added: “The NHS needs urgent action to put it on sustainable financial footing. Failure to invest now will result in a disaster in the future, both financially and in terms of patient health and care.”

Meanwhile, Janet Davies, Chief Executive & General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, warned of cuts to staffing and services. “With NHS finances in such a perilous state there is a real risk that cuts to staffing and services will be made as a short-term budget fix with little regard for the longer-term consequences for patients.

“The health service must learn from the lessons of the past, when staffing cuts had a direct impact on the quality of patient care. There is no excuse for repeating those mistakes again simply to balance the books.”

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