NHS completely absent from 72-page Autumn Statement document

Labour accused the Chancellor of ignoring the NHS

Jon Stone
Political Correspondent
Wednesday 23 November 2016 15:56 GMT
Philip Hammond
Philip Hammond (BBC)

Labour has slammed the Government for failing to mention the NHS once in its 72-page Autumn Statement – despite warnings of a looming funding crisis.

A number of Labour MPs raised the point the printed budgetary documents did not mention the health service, social care, public health or mental health.

The NHS is facing a major funding shortfall with nearly half of hospital authorities are cutting bed numbers and a third of A&Es are set to close to cope with rising hospital deficits.

In 2015, the NHS recorded its largest deficit ever of £2.4bn. Over the summer the Health Committee found Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt had broken funding pledges and claimed he was “misleading the public" over reforms.

Luciana Berger, a former shadow health minister, said: “There is actually not one single mention in the 72-page Autumn Statement document of the words NHS, social care, mental health, and public health.

“The Chancellor cannot ignore the fact that our health and social care services are in crisis, facing massive, massive deficits, and surely the many economists in his department will have told him that it’s economically illiterate to ignore the massive decrease in people receiving social care in the community and the cuts to public health and NHS staff training.

“Why was the NHS missing from his Autumn Statement today?”

The Independent has verified that none of the terms listed by Ms Berger appear in the full document, though Mr Hammond did briefly mention the NHS in his oral statement to the House of Commons.

Mr Hammond said it was “not the case” that there was an NHS funding crisis and restated a disputed claim that £10bn extra was being spent on the NHS.

“We’re putting £10bn more into the NHS by the end of this Parliament,” he told the House of Commons.

“We’re delivering exactly what the senior management of the NHS asked for and we will work with them to make sure it is effective because it’s got to be spent effectively, it’s got to be delivered effectively.

“I keep in very close contact with my friend the Secretary of State for Health. He is working very closely with NHS management.”

Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth told The Independent: “It’s jaw-dropping that when the NHS is facing the biggest financial squeeze in its history – when waiting lists are at four million, when A&Es are in crisis – there was not a single penny piece of extra investment for the NHS.

“When it comes to Tory priorities, the NHS yet again at the back of the queue.”

Two-thirds of NHS trusts are now reporting deficits, according to a National Audit Office report released this week.

That report found that provider trusts’ overall deficit grew by 185 per cent to £2.45bn, up from £859m on the previous year.

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