Government ministers have conceded that the NHS budget will be cut per person in real terms next year.
This had been rumoured for some time, but has now been officially confirmed by the government.
Official data indicates that NHS England will face diminishing funds of 0.6% in real terms per head in the financial year 2018-19.
Simon Stevens had claimed this month that “in 2018-19, real-terms NHS spending per person in England is going to go down,” and the statement of the NHS chief has now been confirmed.
These latest figures would seem to completely contradict the claims of the government that it is investing more heavily in the health service.
Prime Minister Theresa May has repeatedly climbed at £10 million will be earmarked for the NHS by the end of the decade.
Yet it seems ultimately that spending will be reduced, as opposed to being inflated.
Tim Farron, the Lib Dem leader, was highly critical of the news, accusing the government of rank hypocrisy.
“These Government figures expose just how disingenuous they have been with their claims that they’re investing more in the NHS. It is unbelievable that they keep asking health and care services to provide more services, for more people, with less and less resource. These vital services are already stretched to breaking point. We need a long-term funding settlement for health and care. Figures like this show just how essential this initiative is.”
Meanwhile, Jon Ashworth, Labour’s shadow Health Secretary, suggested that with the NHS already in a critical state that such cuts are merely compounding the issues inherent within the system.
“Ministers have now finally admitted what I’ve been warning for some time – that head for head, NHS spending will actually be cut next year. Alongside cuts to social care this will simply compound the crisis the NHS is already facing. Theresa May needs to use the Budget this March to give the NHS and social care the funding our constituents expect.”
And Anita Charlesworth, director of economics at the Health Foundation, assertted that the situation will even get worse in the future owing to the greying population.
“Obviously we’ve got an increasing population but the thing with the per capita as well is we’ve also got an ageing population. The pressures are bigger than even the per capita shows because as the population ages, healthcare costs are not consistent throughout our lifetime and they’re not consistent as we get older.”
Responding to criticism, a Department of Health spokesperson attempted to defend the spending plans of the government.
“We are committed to the NHS and investing £10bn extra a year by 2020 with the budget increasing in real terms every year – funding per person will rise 4.7 per cent in real terms over the course of this Parliament. We frontloaded this money, rather than introducing it evenly, to kick-start the NHS’s plan to transform services for the future. We have introduced tough new financial controls to cut down on waste in the NHS – including clamping down on rip-off staffing agencies and expensive management consultants so every penny possible can be spent on patient care.”
But the consensus of opinion will be that the government is shortchanging the healthcare system.