Budget must acknowledge the scale of the NHS’s recovery challenge

The vast scale of the NHS’s recovery from nine years of austerity must be taken into consideration regarding the new budget, says NHS Providers

NHS Providers has warned that a lot if the proposed NHS funding increase could be absorbed by efforts to recover performance after nine years of austerity.

The organisation has said in its budget submission to the treasury that, while the 3.4% real terms increase is welcome, the ongoing gap between growing demand versus funding levels over the past nine years has left services scrambling to catch up against key targets.

Difficulties with recruitment and retention are also undermining the performance of the sector.

The workforce challenge is being exacerbated by increasing numbers of staff leaving the service due to increasing strain and the impact of accumulated pay restraint.

In its budget submission, NHS Providers calls on the chancellor to:

  • Commit funding to develop the existing workforce through education and training and set aside adequate funding to employ the growing number of staff the NHS will need over the coming years
  • Use the budget to ensure that the social care sector is put on a sustainable footing
  • Reverse cuts to public health budgets to shift the balance towards longer-term investment
  • Ensure that sufficient funding is made available for capital, particularly given the limits of land sales and alternative funding sources
  • Put in place measures to ensure the NHS does not face additional costs and ensure funding levels are maintained as a result of Brexit.

The deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery, said:

“All eyes will be on the chancellor to set out how the welcome funding uplift for the NHS will be paid for and what the NHS will be expected to deliver.

“As this long-term plan is drawn up for the NHS, we have to be realistic about what can be delivered amongst competing priorities for this funding. After almost a decade of austerity in which growing demand has outstripped funding increases significant gaps against key performance targets have opened up.

“We must be honest about the time and investment it will take to recover this performance and the impact that will have on other commitments. We hope the chancellor acknowledges this.

“The challenge of recruiting and keeping the staff that the NHS needs to meet the demand asked of it is the biggest concern for trusts. It is imperative that funding for training and education is committed if we are to fund the additional training places, and incentives to bring and retain the talented staff the NHS needs.

“For this additional funding to provide maximum benefit, we must see investment in wider services that the NHS critically depends.

“Social care and public health budgets are seeing further cuts while demand just grows and grows. Health and care services are intertwined. This underinvestment risks devaluing every pound of investment in the NHS.

“Brexit remains a significant uncertainty for the NHS – both in terms of workforce and the impact of costs associated with the UK’s exit from the European Union. The chancellor must use the Budget to reassure the sector that the NHS will not face additional costs and that funding levels will be maintained following Brexit.”

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