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Think tanks pile pressure on government to stump up more cash for NHS

Minimum yearly increase of 4% needed, say King’s Fund, Health Foundation, and Nuffield Trust

Caroline White

Wednesday, 06 June 2018

Three health think tanks have written a joint letter to prime minister Theresa May in a bid to persuade the government to stump up a minimum annual 4 % cash boost for the NHS.

The move follows Mrs May’s announcement in March that a new long-term funding settlement and plan would be found for the NHS, details of which are expected soon.

The letter warns that while the new approach is an opportunity to put the NHS on a sustainable footing, “this will only be achieved if adequate resources are provided and if new funding is accompanied by reforms to transform services.”

The letter points out that “all authoritative independent analysis undertaken in recent years, including estimates based on the Office for Budget Responsibility’s projections, indicate that the NHS needs real terms funding increases of around 4% a year.”

This is the bare minimum needed to prevent further deterioration in standards of patient care it says, adding that funding increases should be based on the Department for Health and Social Care’s budget, rather than NHS England’s budget, as it was in the last spending review.

“Limiting funding increases to NHS England’s budget has resulted in damaging cuts to key areas of spending such as public health, capital investment and education and training of NHS staff. This is not a technical point, it has a material impact on patient care,” emphasises the letter.

Funding must be accompanied by reform to ensure it delivers services that meet changing population needs, and dedicated funding should be made available to all parts of the country to accelerate the implementation and uptake of new care models, it insists.

The think tanks also call for visa controls to be relaxed so that more staff can be recruited from overseas and tackle the workforce crisis in the NHS in the short-term.

For the long-term, a 10 year workforce strategy must go hand-in-hand with the new funding settlement, it says.

Social care is failing service users, carers, and families, says the letter, pointing out that at least 400,000 fewer older people are now able to access publicly funded social care than in 2010.

And it reminds the prime minister: “The need for reform remains as urgent as when you made the case for it during the general election campaign.”

It is essential that the upcoming green paper outlines proposals for substantial and wide-ranging reform, including a long-term funding settlement aligned with the plan for the NHS, the letter emphasises.

And it concludes: “The 70th anniversary of the NHS, the announcement of a new funding settlement and long-term plan, and the publication of a social care green paper create an historic opportunity to engage the public in a vital debate and initiate the reforms needed to ensure that current and future generations are able to access the care they need.”

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