Theresa May was in denial about the extent of the NHS’s financial problems and should accept that its sums “just do not add up”, the government spending watchdog has claimed.
Meg Hillier, the chair of the Commons public accounts committee, wrote in a letter to the prime minister on Thursday that growing evidence disproved her insistence that the NHS was getting enough money.
Earlier this week, the government rebutted the health select committee’s detailed critique of government statements about NHS funding, the accuracy of which is increasingly being challenged.
“In nine reports and multiple hearings we have had on the NHS this calendar year, concerns about the sustainability of the budget were very clear. As you are aware, concerns have also been raised by the chair of the health select committee, Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, in her letter to the chancellor of the exchequer on 26 October. I was dismayed that the official government response was to deny there was any issue. This flies in the face of the evidence that our committees and the National Audit Office have uncovered,” Hillier wrote on the matter.
Growing demand for patient care and a reliance on expensive agency staff, due to budget restrictions stopping trusts hiring permanent workers, were behind the NHS’s financial problems, rather than overspending by hospitals, Hillier asserted.
“Too often NHS personnel raising concerns find themselves pariahs in the system. There is a long list of formal whistleblowers who have never worked in the NHS again as a result of their willingness to raise their concerns. I fear that this lack of willingness to talk truth to those in charge extends right up to No 10,” Hillier went on to comment.
May is under fire for saying the government is giving the NHS £10bn extra, allegedly £2bn more than it requested.
However, Stevens has dismissed the £10bn figure and also warned that underfunding may force NHS bosses to ration care and close some hospital units.
A No 10 spokesperson responded to the issue by reiterating the importance of the NHS to government policy.
“Our commitment to the NHS is clear, that is why we have taken steps to ensure the NHS has the money it needs, with an increase in real term funding of £10bn by 2021. We’ve already taken steps to make sure the NHS has the money it needs with £4bn extra this year alone. NHS leaders told us this was the funding they needed and we delivered. It’s simply not true to suggest otherwise.”