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Government rebuked for NHS spending claims

The chair of the UK Statistics Authority has refuted Government claims that it has increased spending on the NHS.

Following a complaint by shadow health secretary Andy Burnham, Andrew Dilnot said he ‘concludes that expenditure on the NHS in real terms was lower in 2011-12 than it was in 2009-10’.

He has asked health secretary Jeremy Hunt to ‘clarify’ statements on the Conservative website claiming ‘we have increased the NHS budget in real terms in each of the last two years’.

Mr Hunt himself told MPs on 23 October that ‘real-terms spending on the NHS has increased across the country’.

The scale of the reduction in NHS spending is very small, but taken alongside the expected Office for Budget Responsibility report showing borrowing rising, it shows that the Prime Minister is not meeting his promise at the start of 2010 to cut the deficit, and not the NHS.

Mr Dilnot said that because of the small size of the changes and uncertainties surrounding them, it might be fairer to say spending had ‘changed very little’ under the Coalition.

He said the UKSA’s calculations were based on what he considered ‘the most authoritative source’ of national statistics on the subject - the Treasury’s Public Spending Statistics.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: ‘The 2010-11 year should not be used a baseline for NHS spending because the budget and spending plans were set in place by the previous government.

‘For the first year of this Government’s spending review, as Andrew Dilnot acknowledges, NHS spending increased in real terms compared to the previous year by 0.1%. The NHS budget will continue to increase in real terms during every year of the current spending review settlement.’