The BMA has welcomed a ‘long-awaited first step’ to addressing years of under-investment in the health service, but stressed that the Government now needs to come up with the details.
Prime minister Theresa May, appearing before a parliamentary committee yesterday, committed to a more long-term approach in funding the NHS.
She said: ‘We… need to get away from this annual approach to the NHS budget and recognise that for the NHS to plan and manage effectively, we need to get away from those annual top-ups of the budget.
‘We do need to have a sustainable, long-term plan that should build on the work of the Five Year Forward View but we should look beyond it to a plan that allows the NHS to realise greater productivity and efficiency gains.’
She said the plan, drawn up in conjunction with clinicians, NHS leaders and health experts, should be drawn up sooner than next year’s spending review.
‘I think in this, the 70th anniversary year of the NHS’ foundation, we need an answer on this,’ she said.
There had been media speculation at the weekend that the Government would announce an extra £4 billion a year for the NHS. But Mrs May was not asked about this figure, nor did she give any details of extra funding.
Asked by Labour MP Meg Hillier whether her proposed multi-year funding settlement meant more money going in than the current base budget, the prime minister answered: ‘What I want to do is to develop a long-term plan for the NHS and then ensure that that is properly resourced.
‘By definition, we have already committed to putting more money into the NHS over the coming years, so, yes, more money will be going into the NHS.’
In recent years, NHS investment has increased annually by around 1 per cent, significantly lower than the historic 4 per cent average which the service has needed to accommodate a growing, ageing population with more complex needs.
The BMA has estimated that if the UK spent the same proportion of GDP on health as the ten leading European economies, it would have an extra £10 billion a year in investment.
BMA council chair Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘We cautiously welcome the prime minister’s comments, which represent a long-awaited first step in recognising the pressing and long-term needs of an NHS suffering after years of underinvestment, leaving patient care compromised.
‘However, we need to see the details of any plan before believing this will truly deliver on the rhetoric.
‘As the NHS reaches its 70th birthday, the Government must work with organisations such as the BMA, which represents frontline doctors, to ensure any long-term funding plan is sustainable, meets the needs of patients and staff, and ensures safe and high-quality care for the next seven decades and beyond.’
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