HEALTH service chiefs are calling for extra cash ahead of the budget, starting with the infamous £350 million a week promised during the Brexit campaign.
The ‘Leave’ campaign had the figure plastered over its battle bus touring the country ahead of last June’s referendum…now the NHS is demanding the long-awaited cash injection.
Ironically, new statistics show the ‘wellbeing’ of the UK population showed a small but significant rise following the Brexit vote – although it has been tempered by ongoing uncertainty. Not just the negotiations with Brussels but also a new prime minister, the snap general election, and terror attacks.
Head of the NHS in England, Simon Stevens is about to address the NHS Providers’ annual conference of health managers in a highly charged atmosphere ahead of Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Budget.
His speech will underline growing waiting lists, missed targets, and forecasts of a winter crisis in surgeries and hospitals.
And Mr Stevens will return to the controversial ‘Vote Leave’ red bus to put his case for more money; claiming trust in politics and politicians will be dented unless the NHS gets more cash.
The £350 million a week has always been controversial, it was hotly contested at the time; but the mathematics used said the money heading to the EU would be better spent on the NHS – and it was a figure said to be highly influential on voting last June.
Three highly-influential health think-tanks appear to agree with Mr Stevens; the King’s Fund, the Nuffield Trust and the Health Foundation, have published a joint report calling for an additional £4 million to be spent easing the NHS crisis next year. It is a figure eight times greater than government promises.
In his leaked speech, Mr Stevens is not expected to say exactly how much cash injection is needed but argue a significant boost is vital for the well-being of the NHS.
And he is predicted to tell delegates: “The NHS was not on the ballot paper but it was on the Battle bus. Vote leave for a better funded health service, £350 million a week.
“Rather than our criticising these clear Brexit commitments to NHS patients – promises entered into by cabinet ministers and by MPs – the public wants to see them honoured.
“Trust in democratic politics will not be strengthened if anyone now tries to argue: ‘You voted for Brexit, partly for a better funded health service, but precisely because of Brexit, you cannot have one’.
“A modern NHS is itself a part of the practical answer to the deep social concerns that gave rise to Brexit.”
And he will also remind the world that at a time of social division it was an institution that helped unite the country and at the top of the list that made people “makes them proudest to be British” – at the top of the league ahead of the monarchy or the BBC – because it united young and old, those living in towns or the country, and those with money or financially struggling.
The stand will be strongly supported by Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, who maintains that key targets for Accident and Emergency, routine operations and cancer care are being missed almost routinely.
“The Budget is an opportunity, at the beginning of this Parliament, to protect care quality for patients and service users and help the NHS break out of the downward spiral in which it is currently trapped…there isn’t enough funding to cope.”
Spending on the health service is scheduled to rise; the frontline budget should be £8 billion higher by 2022 – after taking inflation into account – than it currently stands; but that would not factor in such things as training and promoting lifestyle changes.
The government likes to assure folk it is committed to continued investment in the NHS. However, a spoonful of Battle Bus promises might help the medicine go down.