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May hints at providing long-term funding plan for NHS

Published on 28/03/18 at 08:09am
Image: Arno Mikkor

After the news broke earlier in the week of a group of nearly 100 MPs calling for a parliamentary commission to be set up to assess the future of the NHS, UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, conceded that a long-term plan was needed, which may include additional funding.

Responding to growing pressure from a number of sources, including Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson within her own ranks, May stressed that there needed to be a funding plan that meant that annual “top-ups” were no longer necessary.

“We need to get away from this annual approach we see to the NHS budget,” May told MPs. “We have to recognise for the NHS to plan and manage effectively, we need to get away from the annual top-ups to the budget we have seen. We do need to have a sustainable long-term plan.”

She added: “I want that to be done in conjunction with leaders of the NHS, with clinicians and health experts and the Government will provide a multi-year funding settlement in support of the plan, consistent with our fiscal rules and balanced approach but ensuring the NHS can cope with the rising demand ahead of the spending review.”

One potential idea that has been mooted and now looks increasingly likely is a dedicated tax to pay for health and social care services.

From its creation, NHS funding has stayed relatively consistent at 4% annually until the Conservatives came into government in 2010. Labour has called for £5 billion to be provided this year to meet demand for services and, to meet the 4% increase, funding would need to jump to £150 billion by 2022-2023, up from £125 billion planned in this year’s budget.

A rise in income tax by 1p has been suggested as one means of generating the extra £5 billion needed to fund the service, without requiring the government to juggle its budgets.

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s Health and Social Care spokesman said: “Years of starving the NHS of the funds it needs resulted in the worst winter crisis on record, the ongoing drastic shortage of healthcare staff and the abandoning of minimum legal standards of care which patients are entitled to.”

As for when the long-term plan will be announced, there were no clues given by Theresa May. However, it is widely expected that some kind of positive funding announcement will be revealed on 5 July of this year, marking the 70th anniversary of the NHS.

Ben Hargreaves

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