The government has promised the NHS a much-vaunted £8 billion of extra funding above inflation between 2016-17 and 2020-21. But the settlement is less generous than it appears.
About £3 billion of the “extra” money has been taken from budgets that pay for things such as training for doctors and nurses, and public health services. Without this, the real increase for the health service is just over half the amount that the government claims – about £4.5 billion. On top of this, the NHS has to make at least £22 billion of further savings.
It seems more noise does garner more attention, but the benefits in funding are not as large as might be expected.
And more attention does not necessarily mean a better conversation about the problems the NHS is facing, says Dr Fiona Godlee, editorin-chief of The BMJ: “Current coverage of the NHS clearly shows a system at breaking point. But we’re still a long way from having a grown-up conversation between politicians and the public about what type of health service we want and how much public money it should receive.
“Sadly, I don’t think this government will act to make the health and social care services more sustainable until someone dies because of a lack of beds, and only then if this causes a media storm.”