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Health leaders condemn autumn budget for ignoring NHS

Wide criticism for Chancellor’s autumn statement

Adrian O'Dowd

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Health leaders have all condemned Chancellor Philip Hammond’s first autumn statement budget as a wasted opportunity, describing it as “alarming” and grim news for the NHS.

Mr Hammond’s budget made no mention of health spending in the speech despite numerous calls for more resources and warnings made recently about pressures on the NHS and social care provided by local authorities.

The only reference to anything related to the NHS was a mention of the additional student loan outlay expected following the announcement by health secretary Jeremy Hunt last month of the government’s plan to fund up to 1,500 additional medical training places each year from the 2018-19 academic year onwards.

Dr Mark Porter, BMA chair of council, said: “The Chancellor has chosen to ignore repeated calls from the health sector for much needed additional funding in today’s autumn statement.

“The NHS has been under enormous pressure for some time now and things are steadily getting worse. Our hospitals are in the red, GPs are unable to keep up with the number of patients coming through the surgery door and staff morale is low. This is unacceptable and should be a wakeup call for ministers.”

Royal College of Physicians president Professor Jane Dacre said: “With recorded hospital deficits hitting £2.45 billion, growing waiting lists, underfunding of social care, and growing numbers of emergency departments closing their doors – the decision not to even mention or increase funding is alarming.

“Our NHS is underfunded, underdoctored, overstretched and today’s lack of additional funding will only exacerbate the grave situation we face."

Health think tanks were similarly critical of the Chancellor’s budget and Professor John Appleby, chief economist of the Nuffield Trust, said: “The Chancellor’s failure to heed any of the calls for more money for social care means that vulnerable elderly and disabled people will pay the price.

“In addition to the considerable human cost of this lack of funding, starving social care of cash is also having a serious knock-on effect on the NHS, with more and more patients trapped in hospital beds when they could leave with more local authority support.

“The autumn statement also underlines that the austerity measures affecting all public services will continue till the end of the decade.  This is grim news for the NHS, which has already been struggling to cope with the effects of years of underfunding.”

Richard Murray, director of policy at The King’s Fund, said: “The absence of new money for health or social care means that the already intense pressures on services will continue to grow.

“The lack of extra money for social care funding, in particular, means we are likely to see an already threadbare safety net stretched even more thinly.”

Stephen Dalton, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “The Treasury has missed a golden opportunity to ease the strain on the NHS.”

Lord Porter, chairman of the Local Government Association, said: “Councils, the NHS, charities and care providers have been clear about the desperate need for the Chancellor to take action to tackle the funding crisis in social care. It is unacceptable that this has not been addressed in the autumn statement. Services supporting our elderly and vulnerable are at breaking point now.

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