Spending review a ‘missed opportunity’ for health funding

Money announced for the NHS in today’s Spending Review represents another ‘missed opportunity’ for health funding and is not enough to deliver the commitments outlined in the NHS Long Term plan, doctors’ leaders have warned.

In his first major speech on the government’s spending plans, Sajid Javid reaffirmed the £33.9bn additional spending earmarked for the NHS over the next five years.

However, the British Medical Association (BMA) said two-thirds of the £6.2bn additional NHS funding allocated by the Chancellor for 2020/21 had already been announced by Theresa May in 2018.

BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘After years of underinvestment, the NHS has been left struggling to cope with year-round pressures, leaving patients suffering long waits and doctors and their colleagues with rock-bottom morale.

‘Today represents another missed opportunity from the government to turn this around.’

Writing jointly in The Times, the Chancellor and Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the decisions taken in the spending round would enable the government to ‘renew and rebuild this nation’s most revered and loved public service’.

The Chancellor confirmed earlier government announcements of an additional £1.8bn in capital spending to upgrade hospitals and tackle urgent infrastructure projects and £250m investment in artificial intelligence from 2020/21.

He also pledged an additional £150m for continuing professional development (CPD) through Health Education England, with nurses, midwives and allied health professionals each able to access a £1,000 central training budget over the next three years.

But the BMA insisted the capital spending plan would not address the £6bn maintenance backlog and that there was no additional money to support doctors in training.

NHS Employers welcomed the new money for training but said it came after five years of major reductions in CPD funding.

Chief executive Danny Mortimer called for an ongoing commitment to invest in the NHS workforce to ensure long term staff recruitment, particularly in shortage areas such as mental health and learning disability nursing.

‘Investment is also needed in capital to improve working environments and equipment for our teams, and in social care so that our people can have jobs founded on being able to do the very best for the communities they serve,’ he said.