Members of the Commons health select committee – including Conservative MP and committee chair Sarah Wollaston – have written to the chancellor urging him to provide more investment in his autumn statement.
The letter calls for capital resources to fund the sustainability and transformation plan process, which aims to ensure the long-term survival of the NHS, to address the crisis in social care provision and for the Government to reconsider the NHS funding settlement so the service can meet spiralling demand.
It says: ‘Our fear… for the NHS over the spending review period, [is that] these short-term pressures will become overwhelming.
‘Ahead of the autumn statement we wish to make two requests of the Government. The first is that it seriously considers a means of increasing the capital funding available to the NHS. The second is that the Government respond to the crisis in social care provision.’
The letter, also signed by Labour’s Ben Bradshaw and Emma Reynolds, Tory James Davies, and the SNP MP Philippa Whitford, who also sit on the committee, criticises health secretary Jeremy Hunt and prime minister Theresa May’s suggestion that the NHS has been given £10bn of extra investment.
It says the claim is ‘not only incorrect but risks giving a false impression that the NHS is awash with cash’ and puts at risk the achievement of the Five Year Forward View’s aims to make services sustainable – with money being diverted from areas like public health and social care to account for the figure.
It comes just a week after health secretary Jeremy Hunt was called to speak to the committee’s enquiry into the sustainability of the NHS.
Speaking to the committee, Mr Hunt said: ‘Whether you call it £4.5bn or £10bn, it doesn’t matter. It is what the NHS said they needed and it was extra money going to the NHS frontline.’
In response, Dr Wollaston made clear that she and her committee believed that continued use of the £10bn figure was misleading, while Mr Bradshaw said the Government’s investment had come at the expense of slashed public health and social care budgets.
BMA council chair Mark Porter said the BMA has long been urging this Government to be honest about NHS funding.
He said: ‘Our calls are now being echoed by experts and interested parties from all sides of the political landscape now. The prime minister and chancellor need to explain how exactly the NHS will keep up with rising demand without the necessary investment. Theresa May talks about injecting £10bn into the NHS, yet in reality the increase in health spending is less than half of that.
‘The NHS is already the most efficient healthcare system in the world. The notion that the funding crisis can be solved with further efficiency savings is a myth, and these are not savings, they are year-on-year cuts that have driven almost every acute trust in England into deficit, led to a crisis in general practice and a community and social care system on the brink of collapse.
‘The NHS needs urgent action to put it on sustainable financial footing. Failure to invest now will result in a disaster in the future, both financially and in terms of patient health and care.’