How should the NHS spend its birthday money? – Part three
Theresa May announced at the weekend that the NHS will receive a funding increase of £20bn per year by 2024 in real terms. The Prime Minister has since confirmed that “some of the extra funding will come from using the money we will no longer spend on our annual membership subscription to the European Union after we have left.” Speaking today at the Royal Free Hospital, she also acknowledged that these savings will not be sufficient on their own, adding that “taxpayers will have to contribute a bit more in a fair and balanced way to support the NHS we all use.” While additional details will be unveiled by the Chancellor in due course, it appears new taxes will be introduced and the possibility of additional Government borrowing cannot be ruled out.
Still to be published is the Prime Minister’s ten-year plan for the NHS. The plan is expected to detail how this additional funding will be allocated across the health and care system. Whilst we already know that cancer care and mental health services will be an important focus, it is difficult to predict what other policy areas that will be prioritized and what practical changes to the health and care service will be introduced.
In recognition of this debate, Lexington Health is canvassing the opinions of the UK’s leading health experts regarding how this additional funding should be allocated across the health and care service.
We’ve spoken to Siva Anandaciva, Chief Analyst at the King’s Fund, and John Kell, Head of Policy at the Patient’s Association, to get their thoughts on what the NHS should spend its Birthday money.
Chief Analyst, King’s Fund
“Additional funding could provide some mild analgesia for current NHS pressures, for example by allowing more staff to be hired (where they can be found), dormant hospital wards to be reopened (if they can be staffed) and addressing the poor physical condition of some of the NHS estate. But as essential is finding a cure for these problems – and that lies in financially supporting the transformation of services already underway in integrated care systems. This means investing in new ways of working, social care, public health, community services and technology – in a word – ‘transformation’. Prioritisation is a fiendish task but failing to use this extra investment for ‘parallel funding’ of new ways of delivering care would be a wasted opportunity the NHS might rue for decades to come.”
Head of Policy, The Patients Association
“There are two ways to think about how an NHS funding increase should be spent. The first is the easier: what should the balance of funding be in a future NHS? There’s wide consensus that it should be much more focused on prevention and community services, keeping people well in their own homes and ensuring that care wraps seamlessly around patients’ needs. More spending on mental health should be part of the picture too.
The second is much harder: what’s the first priority, in the current mess, in order to get there? Proper transformation is essential and must be funded, but in the meantime, there are myriad services that need shoring up in order to get back to providing high standards of patient care. Balancing those two needs will tax NHS England’s decision-makers considerably – they will do well to listen to patient views in weighing up their first moves.”