NHS: PM to look at ‘multi-year’ funding plan for health service

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Theresa May speaking to MPsImage copyright AFP

Theresa May has promised a “multi-year” funding plan for the NHS in England to address its long-terms financial needs.

The PM said she wanted to get away from “annual top-ups” in cash and would come up with a blueprint this year to allow the NHS “to plan for the future”.

She said the NHS faced “serious cost pressures and demands” and she wanted to build a political consensus on boosting productivity and efficiency.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, welcomed the “timely” pledge.

He said the UK needed to capitalise on advances in medical care while ensuring the “great pressure” on front-line staff was alleviated.

On Sunday, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt called for a ten-year funding deal for the NHS, arguing this would allow proper planning to train the staff needed to cope with the challenges of Britain’s ageing population.

More than 100 MPs have urged the PM to set up a cross-party Parliamentary Commission to address the health service’s long-term funding needs.

Appearing before the Commons Liaison Committee, Mrs May said she wanted to come up with a different approach to funding the NHS and social care in the run-up to next year’s government Spending Review, based on the health service’s existing five-year forward view.

She said she wanted a dialogue with NHS workers, as well as MPs, to discuss the best way forward, suggesting the NHS could not afford to wait another year to have this conversation.

‘Properly resourced’

Mrs May said the NHS had received an extra £10bn since 2016 but she wanted to get away from yearly cash injections, often in response to specific acute pressures.

“We need to get away from this annual approach we see to the NHS budget,” she told MPs on the committee.

“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”.

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Asked by Labour MP Meg Hillier if the NHS would have more money to spend each year, taking into account required efficiency savings, Mrs May said everyone wanted a “properly resourced” health service.

“By definition we have already committed to putting more money into the NHS over the coming years,” she said. “So, more money will be going into the NHS.”

After his recent Spring Statement, Chancellor Philip Hammond hinted at “headroom” for further money while last week ministers and unions agreed a pay rise for 1.3 million NHS staff, averaging 6.5% over three years.

Simon Stevens said a multi-year funding settlement for the NHS and social care “could mean huge gains for cancer patients, mental health services and support for frail older people, as well as the several million nurses, doctors and other care staff who devote their lives to looking after us”.

Mrs May would not comment on press reports over the weekend that ministers were looking at a dedicated health tax backed by some Conservative MPs – which the BBC understands have been discussed at a cabinet.

Tory MP Nick Boles tweeted that such a step would be popular with MPs and the public in general.

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