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NHS funding bill enters Parliament with ‘double-lock’

Funding ‘capped’ at too low level, warns Labour

Jo Carlowe

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

The NHS Long Term Plan Funding Bill will enter Parliament today.

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, will introduce the bill which will enshrine in law ‘an extra £33.9 billion every year by 2024’ for the NHS.

The bill will include a ‘double-lock’ commitment that places a legal duty on both the Secretary of State and the Treasury to uphold this minimum level of NHS revenue funding over the next four years.

The bill will not seek to limit the NHS in deciding how funding is spent and where – a decision that is made by local clinicians for their local populations.

It will be one of the first pieces of domestic legislation to go through Parliament since this government took office.

The bill will place a legal duty on the government to guarantee a minimum level of spending every year, rising to £148.5 billion by 2024, and provides safeguards that mean the Treasury will be required to ensure the annual supply estimates for the department’s NHS budget cannot be reduced.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “I have heard loud and clear that the priority of the British people is the NHS. Guaranteeing frontline services the biggest cash boost in history is another huge step towards making sure this treasured institution has everything it needs to deliver world-class care. There can be no doubting our commitment to the NHS. Putting our record funding commitment into law shows that we will stop at nothing to deliver on the people’s priorities.”

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “During the election campaign, we committed to boosting funding for our NHS over the course of the Parliament and ensuring these new resources get to the frontline so that patients receive the care they need. Today we are making good on that manifesto commitment by introducing the NHS Funding Bill, demonstrating this government’s ironclad commitment to the NHS. “

However, Labour’s Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, said the funding commitment was too low and would ‘cap’ NHS expenditure.

“This bill will legally cap NHS expenditure for the next four years at a level that fails to tackle the crisis of growing waiting lists for surgery, cancer treatment or mental health care – or deal with overcrowded A&Es.”

He added: “If Tory MPs were genuinely committed to the NHS they would vote for our amendment to the Queen Speech on Thursday calling for an annual increase in overall health spending of at least 4% a year, alongside a costed long term plan for social care.

“Instead Boris Johnson is ordering his MPs to vote for this capped expenditure bill guaranteeing in law that the NHS won’t get the resources it needs for the remainder of this Parliament.”

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