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NHS chief contradicts Government on spending claims

NHS chief executive Simon Stevens has told MPs that NHS England did not get the funding it asked for from the Government.

This comes despite the Government’s repeated claims that it is giving NHS England £10bn, when NHS England had asked for £8bn in the Five Year Forward View.

Pushed for his opinion by the Public Accounts Committee this afternoon, Mr Stevens said NHS England had not got ‘what we asked for’ in terms of NHS funding in the Spending Review, adding that: ’There are clearly very substantial pressures and I don’t think it helps anybody to try and pretend that there aren’t.’

The PAC also asked Mr Stevens’ opinion on the House of Commons health committee claims that the Government’s NHS spending claims are ‘misleading’.

Health committee chair Dr Sarah Wollaston said in October that the Government should stop giving the ‘misleading’ impression that NHS is being given a £10bn cash boost by 2020, when the overall health budget over five years is actually just increasing by £4.5bn.

But Mr Stevens said: ’To some extent I think this debate about 2020 this, 2020 that, kind of misses the point actually, which is that in the here and now there are very real pressures. Over the next three years, funding is going to be highly constrained, and in 2018/19… real terms NHS spending per person in England is going to go down…

‘We all understand why that is, but let’s not pretend that that is not placing huge pressures on the service.’

But, when put on the spot over NHS and social care funding at Prime Minister’s Questions earlier today, Theresa May argued that the situation on the NHS front line is not as bad as suggested.

In the session, the Prime Minister said that the British Red Cross’ warning issued last week saying that there was a ‘humanitarian crisis’ in the NHS had been ’irresponsible and overblown’.

BMA chair Dr Mark Porter said Mr Stevens 'admitted what we already know: there is not enough money to fund our health service'.

He added: 'The Government talks about injecting £10bn into the NHS, yet in reality the increase in health spending is less than half of that. Instead of outlining a plan to deal with the crisis, the Government has tried to play down the pressure that services are under.

'The Government cannot continue to stick its head in the sand. Our hospitals are in the red, GPs are unable to keep up with the number of patients coming through the surgery door, patients are suffering and staff are working under impossible conditions.'

How did £4.5bn become £10bn?

In the NHS Five Year Forward View, spanning 2015-2020, NHS England said there would be a £30bn funding gap by 2020. It said that in the most optimistic of scenarios £22bn of that gap could be closed via national and local efficiency savings.

In response, the Government said the NHS budget would be £8bn higher by 2020 than in 2015. This figure later changed because the Government started including funding pledged prior to 2015 - so the £10bn actually refers to a six-year, rather than a five-year period.

So where does the £4.5bn figure come from? The House of Commons health committee is pointing out that the overall health budget is increasing only by £4.5bn, because it is only the NHS England budget which is ring-fenced under the Government's spending settlement.

This means that other parts of the health and social care budget are taking cuts to boost the funds made available to NHS England, including for example spending on health education.

The health committee therefore argues it is 'misleading' to claim the health service is getting a massive cash boost, when - as Simon Stevens also points out - funding per head of population on healthcare is actually decreasing.

In today's session, PAC chair Meg Hillier said this amounted to 'robbing Peter to pay Paul', but Mr Stevens suggested it was actually 'robbing Paul to pay Paul'.

Readers' comments (13)

  • Vinci Ho

    Different outlook today , wearing a beard , certainly solemn looking .
    Harvey Dent decided not to defend the indefensible. No choice other than turning the 'good looking ' side of his face in front of the committee.
    But how is this going to impact on Auntie May(considering what she said in House of Commons on the same day)?
    Fascinating politics on a very windy day indeed .......

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  • Anonymous Locum GP

    yesterday our sitting prime minister said that the NHS got more money than it asked for.

    less than 24 hours later - a senior official appointed during the time of a previous conservative prime minister has basically said that it isn't the case that the NHS got the funding it has requested.

    this leads to the following;

    - they both can not be right
    - one of them is lying OR one of them is badly informed

    it's important for the public to know who is correct as if Theresa May has not been properly briefed and as such is misinformed it bodes poorly for Brexit negotiations and her future leadership and we should be asking for an election to have a prime minister who is up to date with the facts. if she is correct then Simon Stevens should resign.

    the question is who is right ?

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  • Vinci Ho

    Well. That's what we call politics.
    As I said in the past , there is similarity of fate in Simon Stevens and Mark Carney . Both are given a mission impossible with the rule of ' damned you do , damned you don't '. The latter had to admit today that the impact of Brexit is lessened . Whether this is due to what Bank of England did before and after the referendum is no longer important. The fact he expressed opinions against that of Brexiters on economic predictions, is 'fatal'.
    Auntie May would like to believe her opinion poll is well above any opposition and a general election can only be triggered with at least two thirds of majority in House of Commons or passing of a no vote of confidence of the government. I think Mr Stevens , like Carney , might have already made arrangement for early exit.

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  • Vinci Ho

    Correction
    ....passing of a vote of no confidence of the government.

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  • Vinci Ho

    Auntie May
    I hope you are watching BBC 2 programme, 'Hospital'

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  • cracks showing at top. They have all been well warned.

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  • Yes -the beard is a very strange development. Probably indicative of some inner turmoil- my mother said never trust a man with a beard or tinted glasses. Anyway to be fair to him he stuck to his guns and for once we heard some straight and honest truth telling. So three cheers for Mr Beardie.

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  • Healthy Cynic

    A nice bit of straight-speaking from someone high up in the NHS. We need more of the same.
    PM made a complete fool of herself in Parliament by essentially saying 'things aren't really that bad'.
    Hunt now lacks any credibility whatsoever.

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  • Sorry ,must dash there's a bad epidemic of " foot in mouth " disease at Terry's farm.

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  • Beards are cool or hipster at the moment!

    Speaking the truth to power hurts, but it is usually the orator that suffers! Simon Stevens is right to speak up as it has always been robbing one part to fund another but now it is very much divide and rule. The £2.4Billion promised to primary care is exactly the sum taken from the social care budget, co-incidence?? What is fundamentally needed is a rationalisation of how the business models and rules work in the quasi market place that is the NHS. Always believed buy cheap buy twice. The care system is in disarray because the public is not prepared to fund high quality care as standard. The care homes I visit are staffed predominately by non British born workers who are willing to work for the low pay offered. Either there has to be a tax or NI increase or rationing because the service can no longer provide the safe high quality care expected.

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