16:20 Andrew Pow, director at Hall Liddy, and a medical accounting specialist, has analysed today’s Autumn Statement from a health professional perspective.
He said: ‘The Chancellor has confirmed in his Autumn Statement that there will be no new cash for the health service… despite calls from MPs to inject more money and warnings from the National Audit Office that the service is facing “unsustainable pressures”. It is disappointing news but certainly no surprise.’
Breaking down the Statement by area, Mr Liddy said:
- Pensions: ‘As there were no changes to the pensions savings tax rules introduced by the previous chancellor, the rules for higher earning NHS workers remain which means we will see significant tax increases for those with earnings from all sources after pension deductions of more than £110,000. The calculations are complex and we have reservations around whether the NHS Pensions agency can deal with them. Higher earners need to prepare for significant tax payments from January 2018 onwards and take advice now.’
- Payroll: ‘The government is going ahead with off payroll working rules in the public sector following consultation. GP practices and out of hours organisations will have to look at how they pay locum and shift doctors from April 2017 and account for tax. Those working in a similar way to employees will be taxed in the same way as employees. The devil will be in the detail but compliance aspects have risen significantly for employing organisations.’
- Changes to VAT flat rate: ‘The Autumn Statement has announced minor changes to VAT for doctors who use the flat rate scheme. A new rate of 16.5% will apply from April 17 for labour-only businesses.’
14:35 On a more positive note, the Office of National Statistics figures have shown a reduction by half of excess winter deaths last year compared to the year before.
There were 24,300 excess deaths in England and Wales in 2015/16, down from a spike of nearly 44,000 in 2014/15, reports the BBC.
According to the ONS, the main reason was that last year’s influenza strain mainly affected younger people, rather than frail elderly.
The year before, a rise in excess deaths, especially among elderly with respiratory illness, had been partly blamed on a less-effective-than-usual flu vaccine.
14:24 As was widely expected, there was no extra cash for the NHS in today’s Autumn Statement, with health services getting scarcely a mention.
11:35 A Labour MSP has said he is ‘extremely worried’ about the future of general practice in the north of Scotland.
This comes after a £20,000 golden hello scheme to attract GPs to NHS Grampian attracted not a single doctor, reports the Press and Journal.
Two vacancies have been filled under the Government scheme in the Highlands.
David Stewart MSP said: ’I previously announced my disappointment at the small number of these special bursary places in the region and to now discover that more than half the posts (across Grampian and Highland) haven’t been filled is extremely worrying for the future of the health service.
’Nine out of ten nurses are saying their workload is getting worse, one out of four GP surgeries say they are understaffed and only a third of NHS staff believe there are enough of them to do their jobs properly.
‘There really has to be action now to save our NHS for the future.’
But health secretary Shona Robison said: ’The numbers of GPs working in NHS Grampian have increased by almost 10% during the life time of this government, and we are committed to increasing GP numbers as we transform our local health services to better meet the needs of communities across Scotland, including assisting more GPs to return to practice.
‘A joint agreement between the Scottish Government and the BMA, on the future of GP services, will also improve and redesign the way health services are provided in communities across Scotland.’
09:40 The NHS gets no mention in the preview stories of today’s expected budget statement, despite vigorous calls from doctor leaders, the opposition, the Commons Health Committee, think-tanks and so on to boost funding for health and social care to avert a crisis.
This comes as the latest warning about struggling services focuses on cancer diagnosis, as a Cancer Research UK survey of cancer labs found pathology is struggling to cope with demand.
Staffing levels are not increasing at the same pace as demand, with every one in two people now expected to have cancer at some point in their life. Of 36 labs responding to the survey 20 said they have a vacancy, including 13 for six months or longer, reports the BBC.