The Government’s spending plan for the NHS next year is ‘unlikely to be enough’, and funding for social care ‘falls a long way short of what is needed’, healthcare organisations have said.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced in his spending review yesterday (25 November) that the health budget will increase by £6.6bn in 2021-22 to help deliver ‘50,000 more nurses and 50 million more general practice appointments’.
He committed an additional £3bn to support the NHS’ recovery from the impact of Covid-19. This includes approximately £1bn to address the elective backlog and cut waiting times, £500m to boost the capacity of mental health services and around £1.5bn to ease Covid-19-related pressures across the NHS.
The Treasury said local authorities will be able to access over £1bn for social care through a £300m social care grant and will have the ability to levy a 3% adult social care precept. However, this falls £6bn short of the £7bn the Health and Social Care Committee called for in October to help ‘resolve the crisis in funding’.
Healthcare organisations welcomed the additional funding but argued that the health and social care sectors will need more money to deal with future challenges.
Sally Warren, director of policy at The King’s Fund, said it is understandable that the Government would try to balance investment and caution given the ‘stark economic reality we find ourselves in’.
She added: ‘However, it is unlikely to be enough to address the pressures faced by services across the country, which are likely to require more emergency funding next year. Funding for social care in particular falls a long way short of what is needed to meet the needs of service users, their families and carers, let alone reform the system.’
Anita Charlesworth, director of research at the Health Foundation, said that while the chancellor has committed to funding the NHS’ direct costs and recognised the issue of long waiting times and high demand for mental health services, ‘the funding announced doesn’t match the scale of the challenge’.
‘The Spending Review doesn’t provide enough next year to give hospitals the resources they need to meet the challenges of delivering care in the face of social distancing and heightened infection control. As a result, there will be a total shortfall for NHS England of around £6bn next year,’ she said.
It also ‘misses a golden opportunity to tackle long standing staffing shortages, which left the health system so vulnerable in the face of a pandemic’, she added.
James Bullion, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), said that the ‘fragmented short-term funding’ announced for social care appears to fall ‘alarmingly short’ of what is needed.
He added: ‘We needed funding to ensure that care providers remain in business, staff are paid a national care wage that properly rewards them for their amazing work, and carers get the vital breaks they need to keep going. Social care has so much potential for good and is falling further behind.’
Kathy Roberts, chair of the Care Provider Alliance (CPA), said that the spending review had come at a ‘critical time’ due to the pandemic amplifying challenges faced by adult social care.
She added: ‘Public spending in local authorities and adult social care has seen heavy cuts in previous years and there is a need to redress some of that imbalance and make public spending more comprehensive, focusing not just on health services but on care and support, and not just on spending by national government but by local government too.’
Across the NHS
Elsewhere, £2.1bn will be spent on purchasing and storing PPE to meet demand and maintain a stockpile to last four months, the Treasury said, while £15bn will go towards the Test and Trace system.
The chancellor also said pay rises for over one million NHS workers will go ahead, despite a pay freeze for some public sector workers.