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Statistics Authority calls for explanation of £1.8bn NHS ‘new’ funding

The Office for Statistics Regulation has called on the Government to explain the new funding announcement pledged to the NHS earlier in August.

In a letter sent to the Department of Health and Social Care, the Statistics Authority said it has been ‘unable’ to identify how the £1.8bn is funded.

The Director General of Regulation Ed Humpherson ‘encouraged’ DHSC to release a statement ‘as soon as possible’ to support public understanding.

Earlier in August, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced an extra £1.8bn in NHS funding, including over £110m for primary care.

But Mr Humpherson outlined in his letter to the Head of Profession for Statistics at DHSC Mark Svenson that there has been ‘debate’ as to whether the £1bn should be considered a ‘new resource’ or cash that trusts already held but weren’t allowed to spend until now.

He said: ‘DHSC’s press release on 5th August stated that the whole £1.8 billion was new money, a claim that has been reiterated by health ministers.

‘On 17th August, NHS chief financial officer Julian Kelly wrote to NHS trusts informing them that the £1 billion increase in DHSC’s baseline capital expenditure limit means they can revert to their original capital plans which are funded by their own income and reserves.’

He added: ‘So far, we have been unable to identify an authoritative official statement describing how the £1.8 billion is funded, and the mechanisms that led the £1 billion capital expenditure to be withheld and then subsequently released to trusts.

‘I encourage DHSC to release such a statement as soon as possible in order to enhance transparency and support public understanding.’

Chief executive of Full Fact – an independent fact-checking charity – Will Moy said: ‘This is an important intervention by the Office for Statistics Regulation.

‘Full Fact previously queried the claim but received no new information from DHSC. The government should not have issued a flagship policy announcement without being able to explain where the funding was coming from. A month later we are no closer to an explanation.

‘An election is imminent. We all deserve better than the standards set by this announcement.’

A DHSC spokesperson said: ‘We have received the letter which we will consider before responding in due course.’

It follows a Supreme Court ruling earlier this week that the suspension of parliament this month was unlawful, which the BMA said signals ‘political upheaval’.