This site is intended for health professionals only

Jeremy Hunt: Government ‘does not get fair credit’ for NHS investment

The Government is not getting the recognition it deserves for the amount of money it is investing in the NHS, health secetary Jeremy Hunt has said.

Addressing the annual King’s Fund Conference this morning, Mr Hunt said the Government had made very significant increases in NHS funding at a time when money was ‘very, very short’.

His comments come as the House of Commons Health Committee has criticised the Government for ‘misleading’ the public over NHS finances.

But Mr Hunt said: ‘I’ll be very upfront with you – I don’t think that the Government gets fair credit for the priority that we have given for NHS finance.

‘We have to operate within the economic context of the country. NHS funding comes from the tax revenues in the economy.’

He said the country continues to ‘have very severe economic challenges’ but despite this ‘this Government’s per capita real spending on NHS has gone up by 10% over the last six years’.

He added: ‘That is a significant increase at a time when money has been very, very short.’

But he did admit that ‘of course it doesn’t feel like that on the front line, because at the same time as that increase we have had a very, very significant increase in demand and we’re looking after a million more over 75s than we were five years ago’.

House of Commons Health Committee chair Dr Sarah Wollaston has asked the Government to stop ‘pretending the NHS is awash with cash’.

The committee’s calculations, based on traditional accounting standards and the Spending Review period, concluded the NHS investment is more like £4.5bn than the £10bn the Government is claiming to be adding to the annual NHS budget by 2020/21.

Mr Hunt also defended missed NHS waiting times targets in his address, saying that ‘we need to understand that we have been doing a lot better on access than we are being given credit for’.

He said: ‘If you look at mental health for example, 1,400 more people are accessing mental health services every day compared to six years ago.

‘If you look at A&E – 2,500 more people are being seen in A&E departments within the four hours every single day compared to six years ago.

‘[There are] 4,400 more operations everyday compared to six years ago.

‘In cancer care we are doing 16,000 more diagnostic tests everyday, 130 more people are starting treatment for cancer everyday.

‘And by any account that is a massive expansion in access to healthcare even if some of the access targets are not being met.’