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Monday, October 31, 2016

Tories hoist by their own petard on health spending

Tory claims that they are puting an extra £10 billion into the English health service have been challenged by Dr Sarah Wollaston, the Conservative chair of the Commons health select committee.

Together with four other MPs she has written to the chancellor demanding the government abandon its “incorrect” claims of putting £10bn into the NHS annual budget by the end of this parliament and admit the severity of its financial shortage.

The disagreement centres on the definition of health spending, but this is far from a technical matter. MPs have concluded that  “The £10bn figure can only be reached by adding an extra year to the spending review period, changing the date from which the real terms increase is calculated and disregarding the total health budget.”

This is because at the same time as extra cash is being given to health, social care budgets are being slashed increasing the pressure on hospitals and other health services. The MPs say that the real amount of extra cash being given to the NHS in England between 2014-15 and 2020-21 is only £6bn and even that much smaller sum has only come from cutting spending on public health programmes and medical education and training by £3.5bn.

This is actually very relevant to Wales as although we would expect a Barnet consequential of about £590 million from an English health boost of £10bn, that will be slashed drastically if the overall increase is less due to cuts elsewhere.

Theresa May's Government would do well to look to Wales in fact as to how to do this properly. For although the Welsh health service is far from healthy, extra funding has been accompanied by more money for social care thanks to pressure from opposition parties.

And this year's budget contains £60m for the Intermediate Care Fund, an initiative promoted by the Welsh Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cyrmru as part of a previous budget deal, so as to better integrate health and social care.
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