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In an interview with the BBC, Prime Minister Theresa May announced that the NHS in England will receive an extra £20 billion a year by 2023 as part of the expected 70th anniversary ‘present’.
While some of the finer details still need to be revealed, the announcement means that the current £114 billion budget will rise by an average of 3.4 per cent annually, starting with an initial 3.6 per cent rise for 2019-20 and 2020-21, and then 3.1 per cent for the next two years, and 3.4 per cent in 2023-24. While undoubtedly welcome, the increase remains less than the 3.7 per cent average rise the NHS has had since 1948. It is also short of the four per cent extra a year that Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has been campaigning for.
In her BBC interview May did not reveal much in terms of how it would be funded, but said that it would be funded partly by a ‘Brexit dividend’. Since that initial interview, May has said that the public would pay more, in a promised ‘fair and balanced’ way, and that economic growth will also help cover the costs of the increased spending.
The Prime Minister has requested NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens to work with senior doctors to come up with a 10-year plan to ‘tackle waste, reduce bureaucracy and eliminate unacceptable variation’ in the health service.
The plan does not include wider parts of the whole health budget, such as training, stop-smoking clinics and other preventative services, which represents roughly 10 per cent of the overall health budget, which has left some critics questioning whether the amount will be enough. As well as Paul Johnson, director of economic think tank the Institute for Fiscal Studies, tweeting to say that ‘there is no Brexit dividend’, Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents healthcare organisations, said the announcement ‘isn't a bonanza by any means’.