Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has unveiled plans to ‘help people extend their working lives’ and retain more NHS staff in today’s Spring Budget. Anna Colivicchi outlines the main points that will affect GPs
Pension tax reforms
The Lifetime Allowance (LA) charge will be removed from next month and the LA abolished entirely from April 2024.
The Annual Allowance will be raised to £60,000. The Government said that these reforms will ‘help ensure that high skilled individuals such as NHS clinicians are not disincentivised from remaining in the workforce.’ Read all here
Digitised NHS Health Check
The NHS Health Check will be digitised, which the Government said would ‘identify and prevent more cases of cardiovascular disease’ and keep people in work. Read more here
Mental health and MSK services
The Government will also embed employment support within mental health and MSK services in England, including expanding the Individual Placement and Support (IPS) scheme, and scaling up MSK hubs in the community.
Digitising mental health services
The Government will ‘modernise and digitise’ mental health services in England, providing wellness and clinical grade apps free at the point of use, pilot ‘cutting-edge’ digital therapies, and digitise the NHS Talking Therapies programme.
Work Capability Assessment
The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) will be abolished and eligibility for the health top-up in Universal Credit will be passported via the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) benefit. The budget revealed that claimants will also receive tailored Work Coach support and be able to try work without losing their benefits.
Funding will be increased for Work Coaches to help those who are long-term sick and disabled into work. The Government said that increased Work Coach support, alongside the other measures to improve disability employment being announced at the Spring Budget, will be key to providing tailored support for people whose disability or health condition presents barriers to work.
Recently, ministers have been exploring plans to station work coaches in GP surgeries.
Consultation to boost occupational health coverage
The Government will consult on ways to ‘boost occupational health coverage,’ including through regulations to require employers to provide occupational health services.
The consultation will also consider a process of kitemarking and professional accreditation to assure quality of occupational health services.
The consultation will also consider the supply of occupational health professionals, including through the long-awaited Long-Term Workforce Plan for the NHS.
A new model will be piloted in England for integrated work and health support in local areas, linking JobCentres, health services and other local organisations to provide ‘wraparound health support for jobseekers, benefits claimants and those at risk of falling out of work because of their health condition.’
The Government will extend the VAT exemption on healthcare to include medical services carried out by staff directly supervised by registered pharmacists.
This simplification will take effect from May and will ensure the VAT system keeps up with changes to how the NHS operates and is in line with the government’s commitment to ‘ease pressure on GP services.’
The zero rate on prescriptions to medicines supplied through Patient Group Directions will be extended to reduce costs for the NHS and ensure the tax system keeps pace with changes to healthcare delivery.
Working parents in England will be able to access 30 hours of free childcare per week, for 38 weeks of the year, at an earlier stage of their child’s life.
This will be rolled out in stages:
- From April 2024, all working parents of two-year-olds can access 15 hours per week.
- From September 2024, all working parents of children aged nince months up to three years old can access 15 hours per week.
- From September 2025 all working parents of children aged nine months up to three years old can access 30 hours free childcare per week.