The chancellor Jeremy Hunt has today announced a £3.3billion increase in NHS funding in each of the next two years in what he has described as “a Conservative government putting the NHS first”. There have been mixed reactions from the healthcare system leaders and suppliers.
Here’s what some had to say:
Richard Murray, chief executive of The King’s Fund
“The additional £3.3bn funding for the NHS budget is important recognition from the Government that the health service is on its knees trying to meet demand and keep patients safe. However, with NHS funding on a knife-edge, it will force the service to focus solely on its top priorities and go further on an already ambitious efficiency programme.
“We warmly welcome the Chancellor’s commitment to a workforce plan with independently verified projections for staff numbers over the next 15 years which means that health and care services can plan to train, recruit and retain the staff they need in future. We hope the necessary resources will also be put in place to meet these needs.
“Whilst it appears capital funding is protected in cash terms with inflation at 11.1%, the Government will not be able meet its plans to maintain and improve NHS buildings, equipment and IT and will need to cut back its ambitions.
‘The significant additional funding announcement for social care indicates the government’s recognition of the perilous state of the sector. However, increases to the national living wage, hikes in energy prices and ongoing inflationary pressures will all add to social care providers costs.
“It also remains unclear how much of the additional funding may have to come from council tax rises and where today’s proposals leave local authority finances overall.
Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHS England
The chief executive of NHS England welcomed the decision to largely protect the NHS from cuts.
“When the government – and the country – face such a daunting set of challenges, we welcome the Chancellor’s decision to prioritise the NHS with funding to address rising cost pressures and help staff deliver the best possible care for patients. This shows the government has been serious about its commitment to prioritise the NHS.
“The NHS is already one of the most efficient health services in the world and we are committed to delivering further efficiencies, with over £5 billion already freed up for reinvestment in patient care this year.
“NHS staff are delivering a huge amount in the face of record demand with 10% more GP appointments than before Covid, an extra 35 million in a year, more support than ever for peoples’ mental health and the highest level of cancer checks while transforming peoples’ lives with innovative treatments such as laser therapy for epilepsy and genetic testing for sick babies and children.
“While I am under no illusions that NHS staff face very testing times ahead, particularly over winter, this settlement should provide sufficient funding for the NHS to fulfil its key priorities. As ever, we will act with determination to ensure every penny of investment delivers for patients.”
Saffron Cordery, interim chief executive of NHS Providers
“Today’s announcement of £3.3bn for the NHS over each of the next two years is a welcome sign that the Treasury has heeded warnings from frontline NHS leaders. It will go some way towards making up the shortfall in NHS budgets caused by inflation and will allow the NHS to deliver on its key priorities.
“Trust leaders will also have heard the chancellor’s call for efficiency savings and demands to weed out waste. And while they will rise to the challenge, we must not forget that this announcement follows years of underinvestment in which health spending has fallen below that of comparable European countries.
“Similarly, the chancellor’s commitment to publish an independent assessment of NHS workforce needs next year is welcome. This morning, over 100 health and care organisations – including NHS Providers – wrote to the chancellor asking for this and we are pleased our voices have been heard. As a next step, it is essential that this assessment is published in full with an explicit commitment to provide the necessary funding.
“But while there is much trust leaders can welcome in today’s Autumn Statement, they are also keenly aware of the extremely challenging state of wider public finances. The impact of double-digit inflation and deep budget cuts to other key public services will exacerbate the cost of living crisis and consequently, pile on the pressure on the NHS.
“They have seen first-hand the devastating impact that inflation, cost of living and poverty is having on the staff they employ and the patients they treat.
“And while additional funding for social care is similarly welcome, delaying the charging reforms put forward by Sir Andrew Dilnot is a backwards step away from meaningful social care reform, which will continue to leave many people facing unpredictable care costs.
“Trust leaders are seeing daily how years of under-investment in social care has knock on effects for the NHS with thousands of people staying in hospital longer than needed. We need radical action – and fast.”
A range of suppliers also responses to the Autumn Statement announcements.
Matt Honeyman, policy lead at Accurx
“The Chancellor’s £3.3bn package for the NHS to deliver better outcomes for citizens and drive efficiencies is welcome. This funding needs to be primarily spent on recruiting and retaining NHS staff.
“But the role of simple tech that enables those hard-working staff to save time and deliver better care cannot continue to be overlooked. Staff and patients need to see some of the £3.3bn support package being dedicated to technology that saves time and enables better communication.
“This will be absolutely critical to sustaining and improving the NHS – just like it was during the pandemic. This kind of technology needs to be seen as a priority, and will help stretched NHS staff do more with their time.”
Mark England, CEO of HN
“It’s positive to see the Government’s commitment to spending on NHS services and specifically targeting an approach to reduce the number of beds taken up by those unnecessarily in hospital.
“However, it’s clear that restoring NHS services will require a commitment to fixing longer-term problems across the health and care system, and a more preventative approach.
“We need to look at population health in terms of anticipatory care and focus on models and pathways which can prevent people from unplanned care whether in primary care or in hospital. These care models need to work for local places, not a one-sized fits all approach.
“Data has a key role to play in being able to highlight those people with rising risks, and to show which patients could benefit from more proactive support. This is critical for re-deploying very finite resources for proactive care.
“The Government has rightly focused on workforce but if we empower patients to take ownership of their own health we can reduce the strain on the system. This boils down to delivering personalised health and care services to the right people, at the right time.
“It’s time to focus on prevention-based healthcare to ensure services are being used effectively, and to empower patients to become effective self-managers.
“If we don’t act now and move to a more predictive and preventative NHS then, in a similar way to climate change inaction, the future problems tomorrow will continue to grow ever more challenging.”
Paul Landau, CEO of Careology
“I’m pleased to see today’s commitment from the Government to spend more on the NHS and to focus specifically on the workforce. However, if it is going to achieve its ambition to improve outcomes for people living with cancer, we need a radical transformation of the critical role of digital.
“We specifically need digital funding: for not only patient-facing tech but for the health technology infrastructure.
“The Chancellor mentioned the need to tackle waste and inefficiency in the NHS and we hope that the independent review he has commissioned will look at the role technology can play in this.
“If we are going to reduce the unprecedented backlog of people awaiting treatment for cancer then care teams need more support to reduce the manual processes they undertake at the moment.
“By empowering patients to understand and manage parts of their treatment away from the hospital has the potential to free up thousands of hours of clinical time and increase survivorship”.
Andy Meiner, chief revenue officer at ReStart
“It’s right that the Government is working with chair of NHS Norfolk and Waveney Patricia Hewitt to ensure the ICBs are working efficiently with appropriate autonomy and accountability.
“While there was unsurprisingly no mention of health tech in the Autumn statement today, we hope ICB leaders will emphasise the importance of directing healthcare funding towards boosting digital maturity, particularly interoperability, across Integrated Care Systems.
“The NHS is significantly behind other industries when it comes to digital innovation, and every day clunky IT systems that don’t talk to each other are slowing services down and putting patient’s lives at risk. This can’t continue as hospitals tackle the biggest elective care backlog in the history of the NHS.
“Technology has a major role to play in supporting hospitals to cut through the backlog. Great progress is being made at trust and ICS level to boost technology, but a lack of time and skills often mean it doesn’t get the attention it deserves and needs.
“The increase in NHS funding needs to, in part, be allocated to boosting digital skills in the NHS to ensure providers can tackle interoperability challenges head on.”
Kenny Bloxham, managing director at Healthcare Communications
“The promise of an additional £6.6 billion over the next two years comes at a crucial time for the NHS, which is still suffering from the impact of the pandemic and in need of a significant cash injection.
“But while the promise of more money is undoubtedly positive, if we are going to meet elective recovery targets without further stretching an already exhausted and burned-out frontline workforce, it needs to be spent with careful consideration.
“The most obvious place to start is with the workforce, and so it was encouraging to hear the secretary of state commit to an independently-verified plan for the number of doctors, nurses and other professionals needed in five, 10 and 15 years’ time, although notably there was no indication of when it will be published.
“Another key area is patient behaviour, and the ways in which we can encourage more people to take ownership of their care as a means of alleviating workforce pressures and freeing up vital capacity.
“To do this, we need to empower people with the choice to engage with their care providers digitally, using personalised and automated technology that caters to their individual needs.”
Dr Sneh Khemka, chief executive officer at Simplyhealth
“Despite the additional funding announced today, it’s clear that the NHS will remain under considerable financial strain for some time, and over the next few months will also have to face into winter pressures.
“This means that emergency and inpatient care will have to be prioritised, and outpatient services will be necessarily compromised.”
He added: “Through affordable health and dental plans, we can serve the everyday healthcare needs of the working backbone of Britain, taking some weight off the NHS and allowing it to focus on where it needs to most.”
Max Parmentier, CEO and co-founder of birdie
“The truth is social care reform has been delayed for years and social care is structurally underfunded, despite flagship reform campaigns by the government. In the current economic context, there’s little sign of change in the near future.
“But, the way forward is to reform health and social care together, moving towards an integrated model that allocates funding in the most optimal way.
“Instead of calling for more funding to support our current system, we must use the latest technology developments, capable of collecting and analysing data to form predictions around a person’s ever-changing care needs, to generate savings by moving towards personalised, preventative healthcare at home.
“Preventive healthcare has the potential to unburden hospitals, keep patients healthier, and significantly improve population health. It would also enhance the care professional’s role, who are the ears and the eyes of our clinicians in the field.