Philip Hammond said “we are the party of the NHS” as he announced an extra £2bn for social care in this year’s Budget, promising the funding boost would help ease pressures faced by the health service.
Sidestepping calls from doctors, health bodies and Labour for an urgent cash injection directly into the NHS, the Chancellor said £325m of funding would be given to controversial sustainability and transformation plans (STPs).
STPs have been drawn up in 44 areas of England as a way of reforming services while saving money, but have proved unpopular in some regions because they will lead to the closure of some hospitals, A&E departments and other services.
Mr Hammond also said £100m would be given for triage in A&E departments to combat overcrowding, which the Government has claimed is due to patients attending hospital when they could be seen by a GP.
However campaigners have criticised the spending plans as “nowhere near enough” and accused the government of enabling further NHS privatisation by not giving the money directly to the health service.
Mark Porter, council chair of the British Medical Association, said the Budget “does nothing to address the gaping hole in NHS finances”.
“There is a £30bn gap to fill and we should be increasing the UK’s health spending by at least £10.3bn to match that of other leading European economies,” he said.
“The NHS and social care are at breaking point and have been failed by party politics for too long. We need politicians from all sides to come together to agree a long-term solution to the challenges facing health and social care.”
And Alan Taman of Keep Our NHS Public and Doctors for the NHS said: “Two billion quid for social care sounds a fortune but it is on a par with starving someone for a month then offering them a bowl of cornflakes above what you’ve been giving them. Not enough. Nowhere near enough.”
“Handing the money to any third party and not directly to the NHS or local authorities would be yet another slipshod extension of handing this governments’ deep-pocketed mates another slice of the dwindling cake – at everyone else’s expense,” he added.
The extra £2bn for social care will be implemented over three years to help ease intense pressures caused by an ageing population combined with bed and staff shortages.
The money, with £1bn promised in 2017/18, follows intense pressure from MPs and councils, but falls short of the levels of funding demanded by some campaigners.
Healthcare policy charity The King’s Fund called the additional money for social care “will provide some short-term relief for older and disabled people, families and carers who are being let down by the current system”.
“Our recent report highlighted lack of capital funding as a significant barrier to the success of STPs so on the face of it the decision to make money available to invest in the most promising plans is a step in the right direction,” said the charity's chief executive Jack Graves.
Everyone the Government blames for the NHS crisis – except themselves
Everyone the Government blames for the NHS crisis – except themselves
1/6 The elderly
“We acknowledge that there are pressures on the health service, there are always extra pressures on the NHS in the winter, but we have the added pressures of the ageing population and the growing complex needs of the population,” Theresa May has said. Waits of over 12 hours in A&E among elderly people have more than doubled in two years, according to figures from NHS Digital.
2/6 Patients going to A&E instead of seeing their GPs
Jeremy Hunt has called for a “honest discussion with the public about the purpose of A&E departments”, saying that around a third of A&E patients were in hospital unnecessarily. Mr Hunt told Radio 4’s Today programme the NHS now had more doctors, nurses and funding than ever, but explained what he called “very serious problems at some hospitals” by suggesting pressures were increasing in part because people are going to A&Es when they should not. He urged patients to visit their GP for non-emergency illnesses, outlined plans to release time for family doctors to support urgent care work, and said the NHS will soon be able to deliver seven-day access to a GP from 8am to 8pm. But doctors struggling amid a GP recruitment crisis said Mr Hunt’s plans were unrealistic and demanded the Government commit to investing in all areas of the overstretched health service.
3/6 Simon Stevens, head of NHS England
Reports that “key members” of Ms May’s team used internal meetings to accuse Simon Stevens, head of NHS England, of being unenthusiastic and unresponsive have been rejected by Downing Street. Mr Stevens had allegedly rejected claims made by Ms May that the NHS had been given more funding than required.
4/6 Previous health policy, not funding
In an interview with Sky News’s Sophy Ridge, Ms May acknowledged the NHS faced pressures but said it was a problem that had been “ducked by government over the years”. She refuted the claim that hospitals were tackling a “humanitarian crisis” and said health funding was at record levels. “We asked the NHS a while back to set out what it needed over the next five years in terms of its plan for the future and the funding that it would need,” said the Prime Minister. “They did that, we gave them that funding, in fact we gave them more funding than they required… Funding is now at record levels for the NHS, more money has been going in.” But doctors accused Ms May of being “in denial” about how the lack of additional funding provided for health and social care were behind a spiralling crisis in NHS hospitals.
5/6 Target to treat all A&E patients within four hours
Mr Hunt was accused of watering down the flagship target to treat all A&E patients within four hours. The Health Secretary told MPs the promise – introduced by Tony Blair’s government in 2000 – should only be for “those who actually need it”. Amid jeers in the Commons, Mr Hunt said only four other countries pledged to treat all patients within a similar timeframe and all had “less stringent” rules. But Ms May has now said the Government will stand by the four-hour target for A&E, which says 95 per cent of patients must be dealt with within that time frame.
6/6 No one
Mr Hunt was accused of “hiding” from the public eye following news of the Red Cross’s comments and didn’t make an official statement for two days. He was also filmed refusing to answer questions from journalists who pursued him down the street yesterday to ask whether he planned to scrap the four-hour A&E waiting time target. Sky News reporter Beth Rigby pressed the Health Secretary on his position on the matter, saying “the public will want to know, Mr Hunt”. “Sorry Beth, I’ve answered questions about this already,” replied Mr Hunt. “But you didn’t answer questions on this. You said it was over-interpreted in the House of Commons and you didn’t want to water it down. Is that what you’re saying?” said Ms Rigby. “It’s very difficult, because how are we going to explain to the public what your intention is, when you change your position and then won’t answer the question, Mr Hunt”. But the Health Secretary maintained his silence until he reached his car and got in.
“This winter the NHS has been buckling under the strain of meeting rising demand for services and maintaining standards of care. The Chancellor must address this in his autumn Budget or be honest with the public about the standards of care they can expect with the funding the NHS has been given.”
Mr Hammond acknowledged the system was “clearly under pressure”, with the NHS suffering as a consequence.
In his first Budget, he said that, alongside the additional funding, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Communities Secretary Sajid Javid will announce measures to identify and support councils which are “struggling” and to ensure more “joined-up working” with the NHS.
Jeremy Corbyn called Mr Hammond’s cash injection to ease the social care crisis too little, too late, in a passionate Budget response.
Mr Corbyn accused the Chancellor of only “patching up a small part of the damage” from £4.6bn of cuts to social care since the Coalition was born in 2010.
“There is a state of emergency in social care now, which needs £2bn a year just to plug the gaps,” he said. “That is not met by £2bn over three years. The money is needed now.
“More than a million mainly elderly people desperate for social care still can’t get it. The money ought to be available now.”Reuse content