Responding to the Autumn Statement, Dr Jennifer Dixon, Chief Executive of the Health Foundation, said:
‘By tackling ill health to support people back into work, the Chancellor has recognised the vital role of good health in supporting economic growth and fuelling prosperity.
‘Little more than a year ago, the government was preparing to introduce an increase in National Insurance to provide additional funding for the NHS and social care. Today, by choosing tax cuts over investing in public services, the Chancellor has stored up problems for the future. Spending on all departments and services other than the NHS, defence and education is set to fall by at least 2 per cent a year in real terms from 2025–26, leaving the next government in an unenviable position with these cuts unlikely to be deliverable.
‘The measures announced by the Chancellor to help people with long-term health conditions are a step in the right direction, but these are mostly small-scale, will take time to roll out, and have limited impact on employment rates.
‘Uprating benefits in line with the inflation rate in September, boosting the National Living Wage, and increasing the Local Housing Allowance will provide vital relief for people on low incomes struggling with the cost of living. However, changes to Universal Credit eligibility criteria for people with long-term health conditions will reduce support by £1bn a year and increase the threat of sanctions. Pushing people further into financial hardship is likely to worsen their health, making them less likely to engage with the help they need and reducing the likelihood of returning to work.
‘Working-age ill health is a problem that is not going away, and its wider impact on our economy is only set to grow. As well as focusing on those who are out of work due to ill health, the government should take bold measures to address the record number of people in work who report health limiting conditions and support employees to remain well.
‘Extra funding for the NHS was conspicuous by its absence, despite the service heading into winter with record waiting lists and significant financial challenges. While the Chancellor is right to focus on improving public sector productivity, a much better understanding of trends in NHS productivity is needed to avoid overly simplistic conclusions. And a big irony is that in the last few days, budget constraints have forced the NHS to cut back on investing in technology, which is a major route to help deliver high quality care more efficiently now and in future.’
020 7257 8000