Responding to the Chancellor’s Budget, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said:
“The NHS is facing the toughest period in its history and today's Budget offers little respite. The extra funding promised may ease some short-term pressures, but it falls far short of addressing the serious, long-term funding problems facing the NHS and doesn’t plug the funding black hole identified by the NHS’ own leaders.
“Health spending in the UK would be £10bn more if the UK spent the same proportion of its wealth on healthcare as the average of other leading EU economies1, we have fewer doctors and beds than countries like France and Germany2, our mental health services are under huge pressure and public health services have been cut to the bone in recent years. Many waiting time targets haven’t been met for years3 and patients face longer delays to see their GP as general practice struggles to cope. Today’s Budget was a missed opportunity to put patient care first, address the funding gap and undo damaging cuts to the NHS.
“Investing in the NHS workforce and providing fair terms and conditions should be an urgent priority for the Government. Figures published only this week show a significant fall in the number of GPs and we know that three in four medical specialities are struggling to fill training places4. With workloads rising and doctors’ pay having fallen by 22 per cent over the last decade5, staff morale is low and recruitment and retention is a key challenge for the NHS, yet the budget has offered no solution to this crisis.
“Doctors see first-hand the damaging impact of alcohol, tobacco and poor diet on people’s health, and it is extremely disappointing the Chancellor didn’t take bolder action to tackle these problems, which cost the NHS billions each year to treat.
“With workforce pressures and uncertainly from Brexit looming, today was an opportunity to put the NHS on stable footing as we enter uncertain times. It was an opportunity missed.”
Notes to editors
The British Medical Association (BMA) is the voice of doctors and medical students in the UK. It is an apolitical, professional organisation and independent trade union, representing doctors and medical students from all branches of medicine across the UK and supporting them to deliver the highest standards of care.
1. The BMA is calling for spending on the NHS to rise to match that of other leading EU economies. We have defined ‘comparable European countries’ as the top 10 leading EU economies, based on their level of economic development. The 10 leading EU countries based on GDP per capita are: Germany; France; Belgium; Denmark; Austria; Netherlands; Ireland; Italy; Sweden and Finland. Using the most recent OECD data, this means that the UK would spend 10.4% of GDP on health instead of the 9.8%. If the UK had spent as much on health as the average of these countries £10.3 billion more would have been spent in 2015. This could rise to as much as an extra £22.9 billion by 2022/23.
2. OECD figures on hospital beds are available here. OECD figures on doctor number are available here.
3. The four-hour standard for treating patients in A&E has not been met since July 2015, the 62-day standard for beginning cancer treatment following an urgent referral has not been met for three years and the referral-to-treatment target for elective care has not been met since February 2016.
4. Figures obtained by the BMA show that training places across three in four medical specialties in England went unfilled last year, with many specialties experiencing recruitment shortfalls year on year. More information is available here.
5. A study by University College London and the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, which was commissioned by the Office of Manpower Economics, found that doctors’ salaries have declined by 22% in the decade between 2005 and 2015.
6. Read the BMA’s letter to the Chancellor ahead of the Autumn Budget here, and the BMA’s evidence to the Treasury pre-Budget consultation here.