Osborne gives NHS £2 billion for extra winter funds
George Osborne has announced that he will add an extra £2 billion into the NHS in his Autmn Statement this week.
The chancellor said it was not a “one off” but what he called a “down payment on a long term NHS plan”. There would be no “unfunded giveaways”, he said, adding he could make the pledge because the economy was strong.
Mr Osborne’s pledge – to be officially announced in his Autumn Statement on Wednesday – comes after NHS bosses warned of a need for an extra £2 billion funding, to cope with the immediate, unprecedented pressure on NHS budgets.
The chancellor told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show “Because we have a strong economy and we’ve got the public finances under control, we can afford to put £2 billion into the frontline of the NHS across the United Kingdom.
“I can tell you we can go further and use those fines that have been paid by the banks for a permanent improvement in GP services. This is a down-payment on the NHS’s own long-term plan and it shows you can have a strong NHS if you have a strong economy.”
Further details are expected on Wednesday when Mr Osborne will update Parliament on his tax and spending plans, based on the latest predictions for the economy.
He rejected claims public services would suffer if funding was cut further and said he would outline how the UK would “stay the course to prosperity”.
“We shouldn’t face this false choice of either bankrupting the country or having decent public services,” he said.
But he added that “difficult decisions” might lie ahead on welfare – possibly freezing working age benefits, although he appeared to rule out cuts to pensioners’ benefits.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt will make a statement on Monday, in which he is expected to explain where the money is coming from.
About £1.3 billion is thought to be new money, from savings in other departments, while around £700 million will come from non-NHS parts of the Department of Health’s budget.
It is understood that around £1.7 billion of that will go to NHS England, with the remainder going to the rest of the UK.
For months, NHS leaders have been warning politicians about a growing shortfall in their budget. Today the message from the chancellor was that he’s heard their call.
The Liberal Democrats are keen to take credit, saying they’ve fought hard to secure it. Labour say they want to go further and have pledged £2.5 billion a year to be spent on the NHS, on top of today’s announcements, paid for by a so-called mansion tax and other tax crackdowns.
NHS funding is going to be one of the key battlegrounds ahead of the next election but with figures due out this week expected to confirm that government borrowing is not coming down in line with the Treasury’s plans, all parties will face tough questions about how they can increase spending without increasing borrowing yet further.
Mr Hunt will also announce that the government is committed to implementing a five-year plan – NHS Forward View – unveiled by six national bodies last month. Many of the measures put forward are designed to curb the rise in hospital admissions and the impact of the ageing population.
The plans involve increasing spending on the health service by £8 billion in real terms over the next Parliament.
The NHS is a huge political issue with all the main parties pledging extra money in the future.