Health Foundation response to Spending Review 2021 Welcome investment in public services but lack of NHS workforce plan, and insufficient funding for social care and public health hinders recovery

27 October 2021

Commenting on the 2021 Budget and Comprehensive Spending Review Charles Tallack, Assistant Director for the REAL Centre at the Health Foundation, said:

‘Today’s Spending Review saw welcome extra investment for vital public services. Extra funding for the NHS will help towards supporting the UK’s long term post-pandemic recovery but funding for other areas including social care and public health is insufficient to address the challenges.’

‘For non-health care departments, the picture has improved since the last budget but the funding falls well short of undoing the impact of a decade of austerity. The public health grant, which is key to delivering vital preventative services, including help to stop smoking, children’s services, and drug and alcohol services, is set to be maintained in real terms, but this fails to reverse the 24% real-term per capita cuts to the grant since 2015/16 nor address future demand pressures. The reduction in the Universal Credit taper and increasing work allowances will help support lower-income working families and in turn their health, but will only partially offset removal of the £20 per week uplift and do nothing for those who are out of work.’

‘On the NHS, on top of the funding already announced for recovering services, the extra investment in capital and infrastructure is welcome and will bring the UK more in line with comparable countries. But new money for technology and buildings, although vital, is of limited value without additional staff. A workforce plan backed by investment in training are critical and we await details of both so that the NHS’s recovery can be secured.’

‘Yet again, adult social care looks to be one the biggest losers in today’s Spending Review. For a decade, social care funding has barely risen in real terms. While the recent levy will provide £5.4bn over three years to fund the new cap on care costs, this won't address the challenges in the existing system. Today’s settlement for local government may be just enough to meet demographic pressures but will do nothing to tackle the high levels of unmet need, persistent workforce shortages and recruitment difficulties, and the precarious position facing many providers.’

‘To truly meet the scale of the challenge over the longer term, government needs to shift the focus to creating the conditions that keep people healthy in the first place. This means implementing a whole government approach that places improving health at the front and centre of all major policies.’

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