NHS funding

Like many who have contacted me recently, I value our National Health Service; it’s one of our great national institutions and forms part of the essential fabric of our society, there for us all when we need it.

I share the concerns about financial pressures facing the NHS and I agree that it needs more investment.  Health spending rose at an historically low rate of 1.1% in real terms between 2009-10 and 2015-16.  In comparison, the independent Health Charity, the Nuffield Trust, has noted that under the previous Labour Government, health expenditure growth increased at an average rate of approximately 6% per year between 1997 and 2009. The Nuffield Trust recently warned that the NHS in England is facing an 'unprecedented financial challenge following the longest period of constrained funding that it has ever faced'.  Indeed, NHS Trusts collectively finished 2015-16 with a record deficit of £2.45 billion, the biggest overspend in the NHS's history.

The Royal College of Physicians recently published a report which has found that the NHS is 'underfunded, under-doctored and overstretched'. Reports such as these are a damning indictment of Government policy and confirm that the current Government is systematically underfunding the NHS.  The Government has cut public health funding and health education budgets and has consistently underfunded social care. The human costs of the NHS's financial problems are longer waits and poorer care, with hospitals overcrowded and understaffed.   The Government is failing patients and failing the NHS.

The Five Year Forward View plan for the NHS includes efficiency savings of £22 billion by 2020/21.  I’m concerned that the only way the Government will achieve these savings will be by cutting staff and pay and closing essential services.  Indeed, in August 2016, a report by Incisive Health into NHS England's proposed 'Sustainability and Transformation Plans' (STPs) exposed a series of proposed cost-saving measures, including the closure or downgrading of some A&E units and reductions in the number of hospital beds.  Emergency closures of vital units across the country testify to a real crisis. The Government should close NHS deficits with funds - not more cuts - and scrap the STPs if they cannot demonstrate real improvements.

A comprehensive health service should continue to be provided free at the point of use, encroaching privatisation of the NHS must be halted and that the Government needs to act now to address the financial problems that face the NHS. The manifesto I stood on at the 2015 general election pledged to repeal the Coalition Government's Health and Social Care Act 2012, scrapping the competition regime and restoring proper democratic accountability for the NHS.


Hilary Benn
MP for Leeds Central

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