By Judith Smith, Professor of Health Policy and Management and Director of Health Services Management Centre
School of Social Policy, University of Birmingham
The announcement today of a 3.1 percent real-terms increase in the resource budget of the Department for Health and Social Care is a helpful confirmation of funding uplifts promised for by former Prime Minister Theresa May on the occasion of the 70th birthday of the NHS in 2018 and in recent statements by Boris Johnson.
There is some new money within the Spending Review announcement for those sectors not covered by previously announced funding increases for NHS England. For example, an additional £150million to Health Education England for staff training and development will no doubt be welcomed by the NHS, but will only start to make good the cuts to workforce budgets experienced since 2014, being around a third of what expert analysts have assessed is needed. Similarly, additional funding to local authorities for public health is much needed, but again just starts to redress major cuts that these services have experienced in recent years.
The Review also confirms plans to fund the upgrading of outdated buildings and equipment in 20 hospitals, but the overall need for capital investment in the NHS is of a vastly greater order than this, a point made forcefully by NHS management organisations recently. The promise today to develop a longer-term strategic approach to capital funding is however very welcome and will be eagerly awaited by the NHS.
The Spending Review today may sound like good news for the NHS, but in reality, it is largely a restatement of old news and commitments, with some helpful if insufficient additional funding for some key priority areas.
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