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Wednesday, 08 November 2017

Leading think tanks warn NHS needs £4bn injection as funding falls to historic low

Written by Ella Pickover

NHS funding will be at one of the lowest rates in its history, leading think tanks have said as they called for a multi-billion pound cash injection for the health service in this month's Budget.

The three health think tanks - the Health Foundation, The King's Fund and the Nuffield Trust - calculated that the NHS needs £4 billion more next year to prevent patient care from deteriorating following a joint analysis of NHS finances in England.

Without an increase of at least £4 billion in 2018/19 patients will wait longer for treatment, more services will be rationed and quality of care will deteriorate, the organisations said.

They said that the next financial year would be a "crunch year" for the NHS, with funding growth slowing to 0.4%.

This is the "the lowest rate of growth of this parliament and one of the lowest in NHS history", they added.

Seven years of austerity in the health service, coupled with rising demand, is "taking a mounting toll on patient care", their briefing adds.

The briefing paper, released ahead of the Budget statement on November 22, estimates that based on current spending plans there will be funding gap of at least £20 billion by 2022/23.

The health charities estimated that NHS spending would need to rise from £123.8 billion in 2017/18 to at least £153 billion in 2022/23 - a 4.3% average annual increase - to keep pace with demographic pressures and increasing costs.

They called on the Government to increase NHS spending in real terms for every year of the parliament.

They also said ministers should make an "immediate, substantial down-payment on its promise to increase NHS funding by £8 billion by the end of the parliament".

Meanwhile, any increase in pay for NHS staff should be fully funded, rather than coming from the existing settlement, they said.

"After seven years of austerity, the dramatic improvements made in health care over the last 20 years are at risk of slipping away." said Chris Ham (pictured), chief executive of The King's Fund.

"The message is clear - unless the government finds the money the NHS and social care need, patients, service-users and their families will suffer the consequences."

Nigel Edwards, chief executive at the Nuffield Trust, added: "The Government must face facts and commit to sustainable increases over the lifetime of this parliament."

Jennifer Dixon, chief executive of the Health Foundation, said: "Without proper investment now the NHS will slip well below the standards and outcomes of health care provided by our European neighbours."

Meanwhile, NHS Providers has called on the Chancellor to recognise that "recovering NHS constitutional standards will require new money".

Yesterday, the body's chief executive Chris Hopson said that last year NHS England missed all four major targets - the four-hour A&E standard, the 18-week elective surgery waiting time standard, the expectation that cancer patients will begin treatment within 62 days and the ambulance response time target.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens will speak at the NHS Providers conference on Wednesday.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2017, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) PA Wire.