Jennifer Dixon, Chief Executive at the Health Foundation said:
‘There is much that is encouraging from the Prime Minister’s speech on NHS funding today. A long-term settlement is exactly what was needed after years of boom and bust funding and planning. The priorities of putting patients at the heart of the NHS, investing in the workforce, driving forward innovation, and tackling public health and mental health, are all areas that badly need focus and investment. And handing responsibility for development of the 10-year plan and decision-making on regulation to the NHS is an intelligent shift in approach from the top-down reforms of recent years.
‘Extra funding for the NHS is very welcome, but far from being a bonanza it will mean an NHS that is just about managing. The funding increase announced this weekend of 3.4% per year above inflation falls far short of the 4% needed to see improvements in NHS services, and is below the long-run average of 3.7%. It also does not make up for chronic underinvestment over the last 8 years. It is hard to see how wide-ranging improvements against the long shopping list can be delivered. In reality, the NHS may just about be able to keep up with significant increases in demand from an ageing and growing population with more complex needs.
‘The timing of new funding is also of major concern. The funding increase is due to kick in only next April, which means a bad winter is a risk. And delaying consideration of broader areas of health spending such as public health, capital investment and staff training until the next spending review means we will unlikely see any progress in these areas before 2020 at the earliest. These areas are crucial for the NHS to be modernised.
‘It is disappointing that extra funding for social care is not on the cards anytime soon, despite the system being ‘at tipping point’ according to the Care Quality Commission. Health and social care are interlinked, and social care funding urgently needs to increase to stem the rising numbers of emergency admissions and get patients home rather than languishing in hospital due to social care spending cuts.