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Budget promises almost £3bn for NHS in England

The government will make a capital investment of an additional £10bn over the course of this parliament to support Sustainability and Transformation plans (STPs), Chancellor of the Exchequer, Phillip Hammond, has announced in his Autumn budget.

Acknowledging the pressure that the NHS is currently under, Hammond also revealed that an additional commitment of resource funding of £2.8bn will be directed to the NHS in England over the next three years, £350m of which will be made available immediately to allow trusts to plan for this winter.

But, leader of the Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn, said the amount of money pledged “fell well short of the £6bn Labour would have delivered under the June (general election) manifesto.”

Hammond told MPs that the extra funding would take resources being put into the NHS next year to £3.75bn in total, amounting to a £7.5bn increase to its resource budget over this year and next.

He also praised the NHS and said that staff were “handling the challenges of an ageing population and rapidly advancing technology with skill and commitment”.

Earlier this month chief executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, urged Prime Minister Theresa May, to give the NHS in England at least £4bn more in 2018–2019 in the Autumn budget, £1.2bn short of what was announced today.

Chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, Sue Sharpe said that, following the budget announcement, STP leaders must now work with the parts of primary care that have the most contact with patients, and invest in services that improve the health of local populations.

“Making best use of the network of community pharmacies on the high street will be vital to achieving their objectives,” she said.

Sharpe added that, despite community pharmacy demonstrating this week how it can help patients and reduce pressure on GPs and hospitals in winter, they were still facing unprecedented funding challenges.

“We hope the additional funding announced today will be spent wisely, on services that we know can help patients and wider public services, and which make full use of the network of community pharmacies,” she said. 

Neal Patel, head of corporate communications at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), questioned whether the additional money will be enough to support both the immediate demands the NHS faces now, and the even greater pressure in the future.

“This means the NHS will need to think differently about pharmacy to make the most of all the resources in the system,” he said.

“We will continue making the case for investment in front-line pharmacy care to government and the wider NHS — the RPS supported a parliamentary event yesterday where more than 30 MPs were able to see the difference pharmacists make in supporting people during the winter. We have written to every STP this week describing how pharmacy teams can contribute support better care,” he added.

Richard Murray, director of policy for The King’s Fund, said the additional money for the NHS is a “welcome shot in the arm” but it is still significantly less than the £4bn The King’s Fund estimated the NHS will need next year alone.

“To deliver the £10bn package promised by the Chancellor, considerable sums of money will need to be raised through NHS land sales and other means,” he said.

Murray added that he was disappointed that the Chancellor did not find any extra funding for social care, which he said will face a £2.5bn funding gap by 2019–2020.

Hammond’s speech also prompted angry responses on Twitter. Paul Williams, MP for Stockton South, said the money was “too little, too late”.

Emma Lewell-Buck, Labour MP for South Shields and shadow minister for children and families, said that the budget provided “no long term funding plan or solution to the crisis in our NHS”.

Mary Creagh, Labour MP for Wakefield, reacted to the budget, highlighting the promise Brexiteers gave before the referendum vote that, after leaving the EU, the NHS would receive £350m a week.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2017.20203992

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