The NHS is under severe pressure, as evidenced by the National Audit Office’s new report on NHS finances, which concludes that the situation of continually rising deficits is both endemic and unsustainable. A year ago, the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) gave £8 billion of extra funding to the NHS for the period up to 2020, but commentary at the time noted that this was in fact ‘a crisis deferred not averted’ for about half of the extra funding was not new and was in fact coming from other Department of Health budgets such as capital spending, public health and training. This discrepancy between what the Government claims it gave to the NHS and what senior NHS leaders argue they have actually (not) had, has been the subject of much debate in recent weeks.
As we approach the Autumn Statement, it seems very unlikely that the Treasury will be giving extra funds to the NHS, for there appears to be a view within Government that the NHS asked for more in 2014, was given it in the CSR, and now needs to live within its means.
It is striking that the three major London health think tanks have joined forces to argue that social care is the most urgent priority for any funding increase this autumn. Given the swingeing cuts that local government has suffered in recent years and the resulting crisis in social care provision, this makes sense. So don’t hold your breath for any new money for the NHS this week, but keep your fingers tightly crossed for social care,