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May earmarks £20bn for the NHS - but experts say it's not enough

But claims of a “Brexit dividend” are rubbished

The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) is to receive a vital financial boost in the form of £20bn, with Prime Minister Theresa May set to officially unveil the new spending pledge today. 

Announcing the proposal on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show yesterday, May stated that the money would be funded by the “Brexit dividend” – a result of Britain’s imminent departure from EU in March 2019.

May, who called the funding a “birthday present” for the NHS, is make the official announcement today ahead of the NHS’ forthcoming 70th anniversary on 5 July.

She said that there would be around an extra “£600m a week” pumped into the NHS from 2023 as “we’re no longer sending vast amounts of money every year to the EU once we leave”.

However, the earmarked funding will only apply to the NHS in England - not for the service as a whole - and experts say the amount won't be enough to solve the service's long-term funding problems.

Chris Ham, chief executive of The King’s Fund said that funding will help the NHS “get back on its feet” but the amount in question is not sustainable for a “long term” plan. The funding still “falls short of the 4% annual increases we argued are needed,” comments Ham, who also said there will be “hard choices” that lie ahead in order to reduce financial deficits and further improve the NHS.

Economists also point out that any substantial rise in NHS spending will require cuts elsewhere, or a rise in taxes. Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, told the Financial Times that while payments to the EU would fall, tax revenues would also plummet.

Even Sarah Wollaston, a Conservative MP who chairs the Commons health select committee, said: “Don’t even begin to swallow any rubbish that this will be some Brexit bonanza.

“In reality, tax rises and borrowing will need to be higher as a result.”

The reaction prompted a swift statement from health secretary Jeremy Hunt, who confirmed that the additional annual funding - the details of which, will remain undisclosed until the autumn budget is finalised - would have emerged despite the outcome of Brexit.

Article by
Gemma Jones

18th June 2018

From: Healthcare

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