NHS and social care leaders have written to Chancellor Philip Hammond to demand an end to public sector pay restraint, and asking him to step up the pace of investment in both sectors.
The heads of groups representing the entire NHS, medical royal colleges and a host of UK charities have co-signed a letter to the Treasury in advance of next month’s budget.
The signatories said this was an appeal to the Government to think of health and social care despite the understandable pressures of Brexit negotiations.
It follows assessment from regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC), which said that front-line services are now in a “precarious condition”.
The letter asks that the £8bn increase to the NHS budget which the Conservative Party committed to over the course of this Parliament should be front-loaded to address immediate pressures.
Analysis by the King’s Fund think-tank has found that the Department of Health budget will increase by £2.8bn in the next three years, with the bulk of the £8bn coming in the final two.
The letter says: “Even if the Government were only to stick to its current commitment, we believe the remaining £5.2 billion should not be reserved for the last two years of the Parliament. It should instead be brought forward now to address significant current challenges.”
“The Treasury should revisit its current spending plans for 2018/19 and 2019/20 to make sure that the system is able to maintain high standards of care.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said that his department will end its policy of enforced pay restraint for all NHS professionals and has called on Mr Hammond to add funding to the budget for this.
However Mr Hunt has also said that pay rises are likely to be reserved for those sectors showing satisfactory “productivity improvements”.
On this the letter adds: “Pay restraint is a major factor affecting staff working in health, social care and the wider public sector. Vacancy rates, particularly in clinical grades in both hospital and community alternatives, are now affecting the quality of care which people experience.
“We therefore support a relaxation of pay restraint, but additional costs that result must be funded in full by the Government.”
The letter also calls for capital funding for new buildings, equipment and technology, and a step change in the investment for social care, particularly services caring for the increasing elderly population.
Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the health service, and was the lead signatory on the letter, said: “Ahead of the budget, this is a genuine cry for help from those who are responsible for health and care services.
“The Government is understandably distracted by Brexit, but if it fails to address the points in this letter, there will be a political price, on top of the price already being paid by those who rely on these services.
“The wide support for this letter should be a wake-up call for the Treasury – all the medical royal colleges, the entire NHS, major voluntary organisations plus social care and carers are calling on the Government and indeed the entire political class to wake up to this challenge.”
A HM Treasury spokesperson said they would not comment on spending decisions ahead of the Budget, and that the Government’s pay priorities for 2018/19 onwards had been settled last month.
But on NHS pay restraint, they added: “We have already confirmed that the across-the-board 1% public sector pay policy will no longer apply. The independent pay review process is now underway for NHS staff and will report in Spring 2018.”
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