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Government giving ‘false impression’ about increased NHS spending

NHS spending per person will fall in two years’ time, the head of the Commons health committee has warned.  
Sarah Wollaston

NHS spending per person will fall in two years time, the head of the Commons health committee has warned as she accused the government of giving a false impression about increasing funding for the health service.

Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston has written to chancellor Philip Hammond, criticising the presentation that the NHS in England was awash with cash. Dr Wollaston said an inaccurate picture was being presented that the NHS was being boosted by 10 billion over the five years of its spending review, when the real figure was 4.5 billion.

Playing with numbers

You can only arrive at the 10 billion by shifting money from public health budgets, and health education and training, and also by changing the date at which you calculate real-terms increases, she told BBC Radio 4s Today programme. In the letter,

NHS spending per person will fall in two years’ time, the head of the Commons health committee has warned as she accused the government of giving a ‘false impression’ about increasing funding for the health service.

Sarah Wollaston questions claims about NHS funding

Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston has written to chancellor Philip Hammond, criticising the presentation that the NHS in England was ‘awash with cash’.

Dr Wollaston said an inaccurate picture was being presented that the NHS was being boosted by £10 billion over the five years of its spending review, when the real figure was £4.5 billion.

Playing with numbers

‘You can only arrive at the £10 billion by shifting money from public health budgets, and health education and training, and also by changing the date at which you calculate real-terms increases,’ she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

In the letter, the health committee chair warned that the adult social care sector was approaching a ‘tipping point’ – with potentially serious implications across the health service.

She also told the chancellor that unless the government was able to put the NHS on a sustainable footing, the service would struggle to meet the long-term demands of caring for an ageing population.

Her warning was echoed by NHS Providers, which said there was now a ‘big risk’ that trusts would be unable to maintain current levels of service.

A government spokesperson insisted that the £10 billion figure was accurate and that it was ‘wrong to suggest otherwise’.

Social care pressures

Dr Wollaston said the most immediate problem was adult social care, where the entire funding precept raised by local authorities through council tax had been swallowed up meeting the demands of the living wage.

With the Care Quality Commission warning the sector was approaching a tipping point, Dr Wollaston said that unless there was urgent action, the knock-on effects of increased emergency department attendances and longer hospital stays could undermine the NHS five-year plan.

‘Numerous sources testify to the impact of the real-terms cuts to social care, not only to the vulnerable people who rely on care, but also on NHS services,’ she wrote in the letter. ‘There is an emerging consensus across the NHS that any additional money which might be available in the Autumn Statement should be directed first towards social care. We agree.’

Government response

A Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘The government has backed the NHS’s own plan for the future with a £10 billion real-terms increase in its funding a year by 2020-2021, helping to ease the pressures on hospitals, GPs and mental health services.

‘We have also allowed local government to increase social care spending by the end of parliament, with access to up to £3.5 billion of new support.’

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