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Government unveils £20bn plan to revitalise NHS in England

Published on 08/01/19 at 12:04pm
Image Credit: Kuhlmann / MSC

Theresa May and the chief executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, have announced a new ten year plan for the NHS. It is hoped that the long term plan, which is focused on prevention and early detection, may save up to 500,000 lives.

In essence the plan will give an additional £20 billion to the NHS in England by 2023/24. The additional £20 billion cash injection will be spread out over five years up until 2023/24 representing a 3.4% increase year on year. 

While £2.3 billion of the £20 billion made available will be channelled into mental health, GP and community care is set to receive £4.5 billion over the next five years. However concerns have been raised as to the extent to which the 3.4% increase will help in restoring the vitality of the NHS.

Anita Charlesworth, Director of Research and Economics at the Health Foundation commented: “A funding increase of £20.5 billion per year to NHS England’s budget by 2023/24 is around 3.4%. This will help stem further decline in the health service, but it’s simply not enough to address the fundamental challenges facing the NHS, or fund essential improvements to services that are flagging. Increases of at least 4% a year are the minimum needed to tackle the backlog of financial problems from eight years of austerity.”

Furthermore unions have warned that staff shortages may act as a hindrance to the government’s ambitions. Strikingly one in 11 positions in the NHS remain vacant. Unison head of health Sara Gorton commented: “Without the staff, there is no NHS. Ministers must say more about how they plan to address the staffing shortages.”

Significantly Brexit may heighten cause for concern. While Theresa May has suggested that the new funding is being paid for by a Brexit dividend, it is feared that an end to freedom of movement may intensify issues relating to staff shortages as a significant proportion of workers earn below the £30,000 a year threshold which would make them eligible to work in the UK. Around 5% of the NHS workforce is from Europe.

In speaking to the BBC, NHS England chief Simon Stevens noted that the NHS plans to train between 25% and 50% more nurses. He added that “We've got to do a better job of looking after the staff that we have. I think people are under huge stress and pressure. We've got to change the way the health service works.”

Louis Goss

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