Responding to Labour’s NHS funding announcement pledge, Anita Charlesworth, Director of Research and Economics at the Health Foundation, said:
‘The Labour Party has pledged to provide a 4.3% annual uplift to the health care budget over the next parliament. This would see health spending rise at a faster rate than any previous government over the NHS’s history, apart from the Blair / Brown years when health spending grew by 6% a year (see Table 1). This would be a step change after almost a decade of austerity. Labour’s plan would see NHS England’s budget for the day to day running costs of front-line services increase over and above what is currently planned. It would also provide generous settlements to regenerate the NHS’s ailing infrastructure and invest in training new doctors and nurses. And it would reverse the significant cuts made to the public health grant in recent years, although stop short of growing it in line with wider NHS spending.
'According to our projections, this funding pledge will be enough to ensure that the NHS maintains the quality of patient care in the face of significant growth in demand. It would also enable the NHS to deliver the improvements to services promised in the NHS Long Term Plan – including in mental health, primary care and community services. However, we need to be realistic about the pace at which patients will see tangible improvements in waiting times and access to care. The priority for NHS funding must now be to fix crumbling buildings and out of date equipment, rebuild public health services to help tackle the root causes of ill health and, critically, to ensure we have the doctors and nurses needed.
‘The NHS is facing significant and sustained staff shortages, particularly among nurses and GPs, which are impacting on services. Turning this around will take time and would need to go hand-in-hand with a convincing strategy for how additional staff will be trained, recruited and retained.’
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Table 1: How does the Labour proposal for NHS funding compare to past UK health spending?
Annual average real growth rates in UK public spending on health care, selected periods
|Period||Financial years||Average annual real growth rate|
|Pre-1979||1949/50 to 1978/79||3.5%|
|Thatcher and Major Conservative governments||1978/79 to 1996/97||3.3%|
|Blair and Brown Labour governments||1996/97 to 2009/10||6.0%|
|Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government||2009/10 to 2014/15||1.1%|
|Cameron and May Conservative governments||2014/15 to 2018/19||1.6%|
|Labour announcement||2018/19 to 2023/24||4.3%|
Source: Securing the future (Health Foundation and IFS analysis); HM Treasury Public Expenditure Statistical Analyses (1991/92 to 2018/19).
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