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‘Multiyear’ funding settlement to replace annual NHS budgets, says PM

The Prime Minister has said she is looking at a longer term, ‘multiyear’ NHS funding settlement, set to be finalised this year.

Theresa May yesterday said that the Government has to stop taking an ‘annual approach’ to the NHS budget.

She said that this was required in order for the NHS to plan sustainably for the long term and avoid needing ‘top ups’ to the budget.

Speaking in front of MPs on the House of Commons Liaison Committee, Ms May said: ‘We need to get away from this annual approach we see to the NHS budget.

‘Recognise that for the NHS to plan and manage effectively we need to get away from those annual top ups of the budget that we see and we do need to have a sustainable long-term plan.

‘And that, I think, should build on the work of the five-year forward view, but look beyond it and a plan which allows the NHS to realise greater productivity, to realise efficiency gains.’

Ms May added that the longer-term funding settlement could be expected imminently, as the NHS prepares to celebrate its 70th anniversary this June.

She said: ‘This is a critical priority for me, so this year and in advance of next year’s spending review, I do want to come forward with a long-term plan… I would suggest that we can’t afford to wait until next Easter. I think in this, the 70th anniversary year of the NHS’s foundation we need an answer on this.’

Building on the Five Year Forward View – NHS England’s first long-term plan for the health service, spanning 2015/16-2020/21 –  Ms May said that she wants the funding settlement ‘to be done in conjunction with leaders of the NHS’, with ‘with clinicians and health experts’.

She added: ‘[The] Government will provide a multiyear funding settlement in support of the plan consistant with our fiscal rules and balanced approach but ensuring that the NHS can cope with the rising demand ahead of the spending review.’

BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘We cautiously welcome the Prime Minister’s comments, which represent a long-awaited first step in recognising the pressing and long-term needs of an NHS suffering after years of underinvestment, leaving patient care compromised.

‘However, we need to see the details of any plan before believing this will truly deliver on the rhetoric. As the NHS reaches its 70th birthday, the Government must work with organisations such as the BMA, which represents frontline doctors, to ensure any long-term funding plan is sustainable, meets the needs of patients and staff, and ensures safe and high-quality care for the next seven decades and beyond.’

The news comes as GPs are still waiting for the final decision on a funding uplift for 2018/19, despite 1 April coming up this weekend.

The BMA and Government have agreed on a 3.4% interim uplift to funding, which may rise following a recommendation from the independent Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration expected in May.