Autumn Statement: Chancellor George Osborne to pledge £2bn boost for cash-strapped NHS

Austerity cuts have increased pressure on health care workers and patients

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Chancellor George Osborne is set to announce a £2 billion lifeline next week for the NHS after austerity cuts have decreased vital frontline services.

Mr Osborne will lay out plans to boost spending on NHS services, nurses and doctors across the UK next year in his Autumn Statement on Wednesday ahead of the general election in May.

He is expected to tell MPs that the cash boost is now possible because he claims the economy is growing and that, under his stewardship in the Coalition Government, the public expenditure has been brought under "tight control".

Mr Osborne is planned to say: "Here's a simple truth: You can't have a strong NHS without a strong economy to pay for it. If you don't have a long term plan for the economy, you don't have a plan for the future of the NHS."

"We have both. It's because our economy is growing, and we've kept a tight control on the finances, that we can do more for the NHS," he will add.

Labour have blamed the "fragile" NHS finances on the Conservatives and have pledged an additional £2.5 billion annual fund - part-funded by its proposed mansion tax - on top of Tory spending plans.

Ed Miliband's party have also called for an extra £1bn next year to be spent on under-pressure health services, paid for by fines levied on the banking industry.

 

Mr Osborne's speech will come after NHS bosses and analysts said that an extra £2 billion was needed for the public health service to cope with increasing pressures.

Senior medical officials wrote an open letter to Labour, Tory and Lib Dem leaders in October to state that the NHS is "at breaking point" due to rising demands, staff demoralisation and "unprecedented austerity" measures.

National Health Action Party co-leader, Dr Clive Peedell said:‎ "The NHS is not unaffordable. It’s under-funded. After making £20 billion of NHS cuts and wasting £3 billion on a damaging reorganisation, it couldn’t be more obvious that this is a purely political move from George Osborne.

"But £2bn is too little to save the public from an NHS crisis and too late to save the Tories from an election crisis‎."‎‎

Mr Osborne will also endorse a five-year plan called "NHS Forward View" in his speech, which outlines plans to curb hospital admission numbers and deal with the impact an ageing population has on the health care service.

The chancellor has been discussing the plan with Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, who drew up the proposals.

Mr Osborne is expected to say: "I endorse this Forward View as the way to deliver a world class and universal NHS that is sustainable for the long term."

Mr Stevens has said the NHS is at a "crossroads" and warned of an £8bn funding shortfall by the end of the next parliament but he claimed there was no reason a tax-funded service could not continue under the five-year plan.

The Liberal Democrats have also called for an emergency injection of £1.5bn into NHS funds.

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