NHS tech improvement welcome, but Budget leaves questions over commitment to health, says BMA

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA

Location: UK
Published: Wednesday 6 March 2024
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Responding to the Budget, delivered today by the Chancellor, Dr Emma Runswick, BMA council deputy chair, said:

“Today’s announcement on funding for digital transformation in the NHS is long overdue and welcome, but with a lack of meaningful investment to boost and retain the workforce or repair crumbling buildings, today’s Budget far from fixes all of the problems facing the NHS, its staff and the nation’s health.

“For too long doctors have been frustrated with outdated equipment and systems that stop them from getting on with their work. We’re glad that the Chancellor has referenced our concerns around time lost to poor IT and chosen to invest in bringing technology up to standard for the 21st century. Doctors should be seeing and treating patients, not fighting with frozen screens or being bogged down with bureaucracy. We look forward to working with the Government to ensure improvements to technology are effective, safe and deliver for both staff and patients.

“Elsewhere in the Budget, the Government’s commitment to ‘better public services’ falls flat when it comes to the NHS. The Chancellor speaks of rising doctor numbers while ignoring that there are 110,000 vacancies in England’s hospitals alone, more than 8,700 of which are doctors – meaning 5.7% medical posts are vacant. In general practice, England has lost the equivalent of almost 2,000 full-time fully-qualified doctors since 2015, and we have shortages across the public health and medical academic sectors. Yet investment remains far below what’s needed.

“After two years of real-terms spending cuts, and amid unprecedented pressures, today’s total funding pledge for the health service – a 0.2% increase in real-terms - is not enough to meet the demands of an ageing and sicker population. For all the talk of productivity, NHS staff cannot be expected to do more with less.

“And following a year of strikes by doctors across the UK, the complete absence of any commitments on public sector pay will do nothing to bring these disputes to an end, nor keep doctors working in the NHS.

“A healthy population is a productive population, but measures affecting public health were confusing. A levy on vapes and increases to tobacco duty are positive (albeit not a substitute for wider measures to tackle smoking and vaping), but a simultaneous freeze on alcohol duty sends mixed messages to people, especially the worst off, about how the Government values their health.”


Notes to editors

The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.