NHS funding: PM calls for 10-year plan to spend cash

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The funding boost means an extra £20bn a year for the NHS by 2023

The NHS must come up with a 10-year plan to best use its £20bn funding boost in England, Theresa May will say.

In a speech in London, the prime minister will stress the NHS must ensure “every penny is well spent”.

It follows Mrs May’s announcement that the NHS budget would rise by 3.4% a year on average over the next five years.

But the PM is under continuing pressure to explain where the money will come from to pay for the rise.

On Sunday Mrs May promised that, by 2023, an extra £20bn a year will be available for the health service in England on top of any rises to keep up with inflation.

This year’s NHS budget is £114bn.

While the spending commitment has been widely welcomed by those within the health service, Mrs May has been asked to explain how the extra spending will be paid for.

Her answer that the increase will be partly paid for by a “Brexit dividend” has already been questioned, with Labour saying the government was relying on a “hypothetical” windfall.

There has been criticism from within her own party as well. The Conservative chair of the House of Commons’ Health and Social Care Committee, Sarah Wollaston, said the idea of a Brexit dividend was “tosh”.

And Paul Johnson, director of economic think-tank the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), said the only way the rise could be paid for was by an increase in taxes.

He said the financial settlement with the EU, plus the UK’s commitments to replace EU funding, “already uses up all of our EU contributions” for the next few years.

Year-by-year funding increases

  • 2019-20 – 3.6%
  • 2020-21 – 3.6%
  • 2021-22 – 3.1%
  • 2022-23 – 3.1%
  • 2023-24 – 3.4%

All figures are above inflation

Mrs May has not ruled out tax rises, and there will be much interest in what she says about that in her speech on Monday morning.

The PM will fill in some of the details on her proposed 10-year plan, which she will say must ensure “every penny is well spent”.

“It must be a plan that tackles waste, reduces bureaucracy and eliminates unacceptable variation,” she will say.

Mental health

Mrs May has asked NHS England boss Simon Stevens to help draw up the plan with the input of senior staff working in the health service.

Work on the plan will get under way almost immediately, with final proposals expected towards the end of the year.

Four main areas of improving the efficiency of the NHS will be looked at:

  • The workforce
  • Technology
  • Buildings
  • Productivity

The plan will build on the five-year strategy Mr Stevens set out in 2015.

A big part of that was shifting care out of hospitals and into the community.

Ms May is known to be keen to see a specific stress on mental health and cancer this time.

The PM will also recall her own reliance on the NHS for help when she was diagnosed with type one diabetes, saying: “I would not be doing the job I am doing today without that support.”

Meanwhile, councils have questioned why the funding announcement did not also include more money for social care and public health, which covers everything from stop smoking services to obesity prevention.

Both are considered essential to the sustainability of the NHS, but the increase announced only applied to front-line NHS services such as hospitals, GPs and mental health care.

Councillor Izzi Seecombe, of the Local Government Association, said: “Without essential council services, which help people live healthy lives in their own homes and communities, the NHS cannot thrive.”

The announcement for England means the rest of the UK will also be given extra money, although it is up to the governments in Wales and Scotland to decide exactly how that is spent.

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