NHS braces for tough winter, saying budget falls short
National Health Service organisations are bracing for another tough winter, saying that an extra £350m for the next few months pledged by chancellor Philip Hammond in his Autumn Budget will not match demand.
NHS England’s chief executive Simon Stevens had asked for the £350m a week pledged by Brexit campaigners to be invested in the health service.
But instead Hammond gave £350m extra funding for the rest of this year – a drop in the ocean compared with NHS England’s budget, which approaches £110 billion.
This was part of an extra £2.8 billion in one-off funding for the NHS to cope with immediate pressures up to 2020, £1.6 billion of which will be delivered in the 2018/19 financial year.
The remaining £850 million will be made available for the 2019/20 financial year.
But the BBC reported that NHS chairman Sir Malcolm Grant said the extra money would go only “some way towards filling the accepted funding gap.”
NHS Providers, representing hospitals and NHS organisations across England, concluded that Hammond had provided “less than needed”, but “more than expected”.
Whilst welcoming the extra investment, NHS Providers’ chief executive, Chris Hopson, said that it would still be difficult for the NHS to meet its performance targets.
January this year saw worst-ever performances against waiting times targets for cancer treatment and in A&E.
Hopson said: “Tough choices are now needed and trade offs will have to be made. It is difficult to see how the NHS can deliver everything in 2018/19, for example fully recovering performance targets. The next step is a conversation with frontline leaders to clearly agree what can and cannot be done.”
Nursing organisations praised Hammond for pledging to give them a pay rise after years of below-inflation wage increases.
Just how much they will get depends on the outcome of negotiations in spring – but the Royal College of Nursing is calling for a rise in line with the retail price index, plus £800 to make up for the years of lost pay.
RCN chief executive Janet Davies said: “The chancellor has clearly listened to the tens of thousands of nursing staff who’ve been campaigning for fair pay, and he was right to address their concerns. Promising additional money for nursing pay is welcome but Philip Hammond must make it a meaningful rise.”
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