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GP politician makes direct plea to Chancellor on NHS funding

MPs warn rationing and cuts to services are on the horizon

Adrian O'Dowd

Monday, 31 October 2016

High profile GP politician Sarah Wollaston who chairs the parliamentary health committee along with fellow committee members has written directly to the Chancellor to draw his attention to the serious funding pressures on the NHS.

In a letter made public today, Dr Wollaston and colleagues have appealed to Chancellor Philip Hammond to look again at the funding settlement for the next few years to ensure the NHS in England has sufficient resources to meet rising demand.

In addition, they ask if he will allocate extra capital to help local areas’ Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) – which have been drawn up by CCGs and other health and care system bodies – to get off the ground.

The letter stresses the extent of the MPs’ concerns over pressures on the NHS, which became clear during a recent inquiry carried out by the committee into the current state of NHS finances.

“We write as members of the health committee to express our concern that the extent of this pressure is not sufficiently recognised by the government,” they say in the letter, urging the Chancellor to consider the situation before finalising his autumn statement due to be delivered next month.

The current deficit of NHS trusts and foundation trusts was around a billion pounds higher than the official £2.45 billion recorded by the government, they argued, and repeated claims by the government of an additional £10 billion going on health spending was significantly overstating the actual amount, which was more like £4.5 billion between 2015-16 and 2020-21.

The NHS would be unable to deliver the changes expected of it from the Five Year Forward View without extra cash, argued the MPs.

Their highest concern was over cuts to spending on social care in recent years, which several witnesses during the recent inquiry had said were “having a serious impact” on the NHS.

“The fragility of the adult social care market is now beginning to impact both on the people who rely on these services and on the performance of NHS care,” says the letter.

“The combination of a growing and ageing population, more people with long-term conditions, and a challenging economic climate means greater demand on services and more problems for people in accessing care.”

This led to higher numbers of A&E attendances, emergency admissions and delays to people leaving hospital, which in turn affected the ability of a growing number of trusts to meet their performance and financial targets.

In the letter, the MPs ask the Chancellor to respond to what they describe as the “crisis in social care provision” by allocating any additional money available to social care before giving it to the NHS.

Richard Murray, director of policy at The King’s Fund, said: “The members of the health committee are right to highlight the huge financial pressures facing the NHS, especially later in the parliament when funding will barely increase in real terms.

“It is no longer credible to argue that the NHS can continue to meet demand for services and deliver current standards of care at the same time as staying within its budget.”

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