Research Reveals £650 Million Secret NHS Cuts in Budget

Research conducted by the Liberal Democrats indicates that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, made massive cuts to the NHS in his budget, despite proclaiming the opposite.

The so-called secret cuts where effectively contained within the small print of the document, with the Liberal Democrats accusing the Chancellor of shaving £650 million from the overall NHS budget.

Commenting on the issue, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron, took a very severe tone, suggesting that Osborne was simply attempting to “pull the wool over people’s eyes”.

“Even by George Osborne’s standards, this is a vicious attack on our health service, schools and public services,” Farron commented. “He made grand promises about funding the NHS and is now making secret cuts by the back door. David Cameron said he would do whatever it takes to fill the NHS black hole, and we’ve now discovered that actually means cutting £650 million just to help the Chancellor’s budget-day balance sheet.”

The Chancellor announced that he would change the so-called “discount rate” for the pensions, meaning central government will pay less but front line employers will pay more.

A total of £1 billion is likely to be taken from health and education combined by the changes.

Responding to this, the aforementioned Farron suggested that Osbourne is guilty of deliberately misleading people.

“George Osborne cannot pull the wool over people’s eyes. Choosing to ask schools, hospitals, and forces to pay £2 billion extra in pension contributions has a real cost, and vital services will have to pick up the bill. The Conservatives simply cannot be trusted to protect the services communities rely on up and down the country.”

It is notable that the Chancellor largely neglected the subject of the NHS in his recent budget speech.

Indeed, only two fleeting references were made to the health service in the entire text.

And the apparent plans of the government must be placed in the context of the health service as a whole.

Even the government’s own official figures indicate that all but one NHS region was in deficit during 2014/5.

To put this figure into context, every single region had a financial surplus just two years ago.

“The country will be spending no more than the country raises in taxes. We are achieving this while at the same time increasing resources for our NHS and schools, building new infrastructure and increasing our security at home and abroad,” Osborne Has commented in the budget.

A spokesperson on the behalf of the Treasury defended the government’s plan for the NHS, suggesting that it was indicative of fiscal responsibility.

“We’re committed to regular revaluation to ensure public sector pension costs are met. The Budget announcement means employers have three years to prepare and we think they should be well placed to absorb extra cost of contributions – especially because inflationary pressures are significantly lower than expected when budgets were set at spending review.”

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George Osborne Announces Surprise Sugar Tax in Budget

In a surprise announcement, the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has announced a sugar tax as part of the 2016 budget.

Soft drinks manufacturers will be taxed according to the volume of the sugar-sweetened drinks they produce or import.

Drinks will be separated into two categories depending on the amount of sugar content that is contained within them.

Already evidence provided by the BBC indicates that the majority of soft drinks will fall into the higher band of the two.

The first taxation group will be for drinks with a total sugar content above 5g per 100ml, and a second higher band will address the most sugary drinks with more than 8g per 100ml.

It had been widely expected that Osborne would delay a decision on this sugar tax, but the Government spoke of the obesity epidemic when announcing the decision.

The tax will come into force in two years’ time in order to give companies time to change the ingredients of their products.

It is estimated that this new taxation will raise over £500 million annually, with investment being made in doubling funding from sport in primary schools.

Osborne particularly cited the fact that five year-olds are consuming their bodyweight in sugar every year on average.

It is also believed that within a single generation more than half of all boys could be overweight or obese, with the figure being a startling 70% for girls.

“I am not prepared to look back at my time here in this Parliament, doing this job and say to my children’s generation ‘I’m sorry. We knew there was a problem with sugary drinks. We knew it caused disease. But we ducked the difficult decisions and we did nothing’,” Osborne stated.

Commenting on the issue, Malcolm Clark, co-ordinator of the Children’s Food Campaign, welcomed the sugar taxation, suggesting that it could play a role in positive health outcomes for young people in particular.

“This is a really important victory for children’s health. Not only will this tax on sugary drinks encourage people to shift towards healthier drinks, but it sends out a wider message about our need to cut down on sugar, and for businesses to reduce the sugar in their products. The Chancellor has taken a bold step in what we hope will be a key pillar of the Government’s forthcoming Childhood Obesity Strategy.”

But Clark also suggested that the taxation should be considered but a single pillar in a broader UK strategy.

“On its own, a sugary drinks tax won’t solve the UK’s childhood obesity crisis, which is why it needs to be coupled with robust restrictions on unhealthy food marketing online and across all forms of media, including a 9pm watershed for TV advertising of junk food, alongside a series of other measures on reformulation, labelling and the provision of healthier, more sustainable food in our communities.”

Although the level of obesity in the UK is not seriously challenged, many people nonetheless suppose the sugar tax for several reasons.

It is asserted by critics that it will have little influence over the level of sugar being consumed and offers little more than a revenue generation mechanism, and libertarians believe that it goes against basic freedom of choice.

Denmark introduced a sugar tax in 2011, before repealing it due to its ineffectiveness just one year later.

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Health Committee Seeks Opinions on Future of Social Care

The Health Committee of the British government has announced its inquiry into the impact of the comprehensive spending review on health and social care.

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne recently announced the spending review in a Parliamentary statement.

There have already been criticisms from several sources on the provisions for social care included in the review, and the government has clearly decided to take these concerns on board.

The Health Committee has invited written submissions on the impact of the Comprehensive Spending Review on health and social care from medical professionals.

In particular, the Committee will be assessing:

  • The distribution of funding for health and social care across the spending review period;
  • Achieving efficiency savings: their source, scale and impact;
  • Achieving service transformation set out in the Five Year Forward View at scale and pace through transformation funds;
  • The impact and management of deficits in the NHS and social care;
  • The effect of cuts to non-NHS England health budgets e.g. public health, health education and Department of Health, and their impact on the Five Year Forward View;
  • Social care funding, including implications for quality and access to services, provider exit, funding mechanisms, increasing costs and the Care Act provisions;
  • Impact of the spending review on the integration of health and social care;
  • Quality and access in health and social care including the cost and implications of new policy objectives such as 7 day services;
  • Progress on achieving parity of esteem through funding for mental health services.

The Health Committee is seeking submissions of no longer than 300 words from people working at every level in the NHS.

Additionally, the thoughts of the general public will also be sought, with anyone having an interest in the topic able to submit their views.

It is expected that the committee will consider oral evidence related to this topic at some point in 2016, with the second quarter of the year, possibly after the new financial year begins, a likely date.

In accordance with this deadline, the Health Committee has set a final date for submitting evidence as Friday 22nd January, 2016.

All interested parties should ensure that their thoughts on the future of health and social care, clearly an extremely important subject area, are submitted by this date.

The Health Committee is a government department tasked with the examination of the policy, administration and expenditure of the Department of Health and its associated bodies.

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Medics’ Open Letter Condemns George Osborne’s NHS Plans

A raft of top medics have written a letter to The Guardian newspaper condemning the policy of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, toward the National Health Service.

The letter suggests that Osborne’s “front-loaded NHS funds” do not represent extra money, but is in fact merely a forwarding of funds already promised by the Parliament to the NHS.

Medics who have signed the letter point out the statistic that has been reported by the Healthcare Times on numerous occasions previously; namely that the NHS requires an additional £30 billion of funding by 2021.

Yet the Chancellor of the Exchequer has only committed an additional £10 billion at the time of writing, basing efforts to address the funding gap on completely unrealistic expectations of £20 billion of efficiency savings.

According to the signees of this particular letter “this is a frighteningly unrealistic expectation for a health system already among the world’s most efficient. Efficiency savings are fast becoming a euphemism for funding cuts.”

The prospect of funding such incredibly high year-on-year efficiency savings is, at best, incredibly logistically unlikely, and at worst potentially disastrous for the health service.

NHS trusts will be expected to push through a deficit of £2.2 billion this year to avoid compromising patient care through cuts.

The medics signing this open letter are of the belief that it is completely unsafe to expect the same scale of savings between now and the end of the decade.

Indeed, independent experts who have commented on the subject have all agreed that the rapid expansion of non-emergency seven-day services will need extra staff and funding, far from it being feasible to cut everyday expenditure.

Furthermore, NHS England CEO Simon Stevens has specifically said seven-day services would need to be gradually introduced, with “careful and disciplined phasing-in”.

Yet the government has already stated its intention to switch to a so-called seven-day culture in the NHS in the foreseeable future.

The letter notes that no additional funds for this proposal have appeared at the time of writing, indicating that further cuts will be required in order to provide something that the writers of the letter claim is little demanded by the public.

It appears that public health, social care and nursing student grants will all be caught in the near future, as Osborne continues to justify his fiscal plan for the health service.

Finally, the letter notes that the Health Secretary has already promised to work with a cross-party political consensus, along with professionals in the NHS, in order to have an open discussion about the future funding of the health service.

The signees conclude: “As NHS staff and students, we urge him to maintain the spirit of this promise, in open discussion with the professions and other political parties. The safety of the public deserves nothing less.”

The letter was signed by over 75 healthcare professionals.

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Front Line NHS Services to get £3.8 Billion Boost

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has announced that front line services in the NHS will receive a investment of nearly £4 billion.

The announcement from the government can be placed in the context of growing fears about pressures on the health service.

To be precise, front line services will receive a direct cash injection of £3.8 billion, which is considered to be an above-inflation rate figure.

The funding boost represents a rise of nearly 4 percent on NHS England’s £101 billion front line budget this year.

This can be seen as a precursor to the Autumn Statement, which is scheduled for tomorrow.

However, the Treasury has indicated that this rise will form apart of the overall manifesto promise to provide the NHS with additional funding of £8 billion by the end of the decade.

It is not clear yet whether this £8 billion figure will be adjusted following the cash injection, or whether Osborne still intends to continue with the manifesto plan.

The decision to inject cash into the NHS can be placed in the context of a somewhat failing health service.

NHS trusts are heading for a deficit of more than £2 billion this year as they fight to keep control of costs.

And reports have indicated that occupancy levels throughout the health service are already extremely serious ahead of the anticipated winter surge.

The rise will bring spending to £106.5 billion in 2016-17, which is the equivalent of a 3.7 percent or £3.8bn rise once inflation is taken into account.

Details about precisely how the money will be spent have not been released yet. It will be interesting to see whether this will form part of the statement to be released by the government tomorrow.

Speaking ahead of the Autumn Statement, Chancellor of the Exchequer Osborne claimed that this new funding would cement the future of the NHS.

“This will mean world-class treatment for millions more patients, deliver a truly seven-day health service and allow the NHS to implement its five-year plan to transform the services patients receive,” Osborne stated.

But Anita Charlesworth, of the Health Foundation think tank, was concerned about what had yet to be announced by the government.

“Any move to redefine and shrink the definition of the NHS would be particularly worrying. If some of the new money comes from other parts of the health service – such as public health or training – it would be a false economy.”

Labour shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander echoed this view.

“If new investment in the NHS is to be funded by raiding budgets for nurse training, public health and social care, then it will be robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

It is already known that the NHS will need to plug a £30 billion deficit by the end of the decade, and the Conservative party has previously suggested that this could be achieved via efficiency savings.

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Simon Stevens Criticises Government Plans for NHS Funding

According to the Chief Executive of NHS England, the plans of the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the funding of the health service are simply not workable.

George Osborne has already outlined his scheme for NHS funding until the end of the decade, with the forthcoming spending review thought to be of particular importance.

However, ahead of the release of this formal document, Simon Stevens has indicated his belief that negotiations on health funding require considerable progress.

Stevens suggested that the level of funding promised by George Osborne could not be reasonably described as genuinely workable.

With a £30 billion deficit facing the NHS between now and the end of the decade, Osborne had already pledged an increase of £8 billion in spending by 2020.

The further gap in funding is to be achieved via efficiency savings according to the plans of the Conservative government.

However, Stevens has stated his belief that it is a vital for the NHS to pledge extra cash in the short-term in order to kickstart service changes that will lead to desired savings in the longer term.

“As of today, considerably more progress is going to be needed before we can say we have a genuinely workable NHS funding solution for 2016-17 and 2017-18, but spending reviews usually come down to the wire, so hopefully we’ll get there by 25 November,” Stevens stated.

The NHS is merely one department reliant on government spending that will be affected by the forthcoming review.

In a statement in November, the Chancellor of the Exchequer already indicated that the Department of Communities and Local Government will have their budgets cut by 8 per cent on an annual basis.

Similar cuts have also been made with regard to the Department for Transport and Environment.

Meanwhile, Osborne is reportedly still in talks with a raft of cabinet ministers ahead of the key funding information release date.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, Home Secretary Theresa May and Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond have all been in discussion with the Chancellor over potential cuts to the departmental budgets.

Decisions to cut government departmental spending can be seen in the context of the overall economic position of the United Kingdom.

The British government is currently in the region of £1.7 trillion in debt, with the figure inching ever closer to 100 per cent of GDP.

This is compounded by a spending deficit still in the region of £100 billion per year.

Although the £1.7 trillion figure may sound substantial in itself, when unfunded liabilities are taken into consideration the real scale of debt is likely to be somewhere between 3 to 4 times this number.

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Budget 2015 promises £8bn extra funding for NHS

Today’s budget in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne confirmed that the NHS will receive an extra £8bn by 2020/21 has been given a cautious welcome by healthcare leaders.

Daniel Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, said: “We welcome the Government’s commitment and confirmation of additional funding for the NHS.

“Patients and employers want to see improved and better seven-day services, and what we urgently need to consider is the workforce and pay and contract reform required to support this, especially for medical staff.

“In continuing with the work to reform terms and conditions of service in and across the NHS, we now look forward to the publication of reports and the observations from the pay review bodies. Following publication we will be urgently seeking to speak with our trade unions, to ensure we continue to work in partnership to progress pay reforms and service improvement across the NHS.

“Our discussions will now need to be set against the context of today’s announcement from the Government of continued public sector pay restraint and we recognise that these discussions are now likely to be more difficult.”

Further comments came from Rob Webster, Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation, who said: “The £8bn highlighted in today’s budget document needs to come in staged increases and we would emphasise this should reflect the bigger cost pressures expected in the first half of this Parliament. There is an opportunity for a multi-year funding deal to be aligned with planning in the NHS, for example around pricing, contracting and allocations. Through NHS Employers, we will look at the impact of the budget on our workforce.

 “The additional funding will also need to account for investment in transformation, to support double-running and other costs that will be needed to move to new models of care. What cannot be forgotten though is the impact that social care cuts are having on the NHS. We need urgent action to look at how we address the gap in social care funding, currently estimated at £4bn by 2020.

“We also look forward to continuing to work with the Treasury and the Department of Health in addressing these urgent questions as part of the spending review due in autumn. Through this process we hope to secure a sustainable settlement for health and care, which allows our members to get on with the bigger challenge of delivering change in service delivery, to better meet the needs of people in the 21st Century.”

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