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Doubts over Osborne's £2bn NHS pledge

Department of Health admits £750m of total comes from internal savings

Mark Gould

Monday, 01 December 2014

While initially well received it has emerged that Chancellor George Osborne's promise of providing an extra £2bn a year for the NHS includes some £750m being re-allocated from Department of Health savings while the rest would come from underspends in other government departments.

Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr show yesterday Mr Osborne said the £2bn was a "downpayment" on the NHS Five Year plan launched last month by NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens. Conservatives have said that the "£2bn extra" headline figure was justified because Mr Osborne also announced a £1.1bn fund to improve GP surgeries over the next four years.

Responding to the announcement, Mr Stevens said that sustaining a high quality health service will require both "challenging new efficiencies and genuine new investment". However he appears to be satisfied that the government is providing more money for the NHS. “That’s the case I’ve been making on behalf of the NHS to government, and today they’ve listened and responded with the funding we need for next year to sustain frontline NHS services and kick-start transformation. Of course there will still be pressures and difficult choices, but the government has played its part and the NHS will step up and play our part too. Today represents an extremely welcome vote-of-confidence in the NHS’ own five year plan.”

BMA Council chair Dr Mark Porter said the chancellor’s announcement that more funding will be allocated to the NHS is "an encouraging step forward as it does appear that politicians of all parties are starting to get the message about the dire state of the NHS finances".

"We are particularly pleased that policymakers have listened to the BMA and confirmed that £250 million will be allocated annually for the next four years to invest in GP premises and out of hospital infrastructure. Many GP facilities have been starved of investment for decades with the result that a number of GP practices are too small and inadequate to cope with the number of patients coming through the surgery door.

“Despite this announcement, the NHS continues to face a number of challenges, with staff shortages, especially in emergency care, remaining a cause of concern.  We need this announcement to be the start of a long-term programme of investment in the NHS that is backed by all policymakers so that patients continue to get the care they deserve and need.”

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