The extra £20bn for the NHS announced today by the Prime Minister (June 18) is the bare minimum the service needs, Unite has warned.
Theresa May said the funding, which will see the NHS receive an extra £384m a week by 2023, will come from increased taxpayer contributions, but refused to give more details on the rises until the autumn budget.
Speaking at the Royal Free hospital in London, May insisted that the new funding would also come from a “Brexit dividend” – a claim derided by one of her own MPs as “tosh”.
May said, “We cannot continue to put a sticking plaster on the NHS budget each year. So we will do more than simply give the NHS a one-off injection of cash.”
“This must be a plan that ensures every penny is well spent… It must be a plan that tackles wastes, reduces bureaucracy, and eliminates unacceptable variation, with all these efficiency savings reinvested back into patient care.”
Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said the extra £20bn is the bare minimum the health service needs. Her comments came as 100 senior doctors and nurses, including Doctors in Unite members, wrote an open letter saying the funding boost is “simply not enough”.
Cartmail said, “The NHS is suffering from years of underfunding and while the promised additional money is welcome it is the absolute minimum needed to begin tackling the funding crisis.”
Responding to May’s comments that every penny “must be well spent”, Cartmail said the funding will only “partially offset” the increased costs experienced by the NHS by the “needless” programmes of reorganisation forced on the service by the Tories.
She said, “There remains a real danger that this cash boost could be frittered away by the government’s mania in forcing the NHS to privatise parts of the service, which increases costs, reduces efficiencies and increases waiting times.”
Cartmail added that the new funding will not resolve increasingly chronic staff shortages caused by years of real term pays cuts, overwork and problems with recruiting new staff as a result of Brexit.
While the Prime Minister announced additional NHS funding, she failed address the social care crisis, which is heaping pressure onto already under strain health services.
Cartmail accused the government of failing to tackle the issue, saying that “unless there is an outbreak of joined up thinking then our health and social care services will continue to struggle”.
Last week, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services wrote to May urging her to invest an extra £1bn into collapsing caring services for the elderly and disabled in order to relieve pressure on the NHS.
During today’s announcement, May also insisted that some of the funding will come from the money “we will no longer spend on our annual membership subscription to the European Union after we have left”.
Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe rubbished the claim, which was also refuted by the Institute for Fiscal Studies and a number of Tory MPs.
Jarrett-Thorpe said, “It is obvious to anyone that Theresa May is being held hostage by the Brexiteers in her cabinet and party, who are desperately looking for a way to make their vision of turning the UK into a deregulated tax haven seem advantageous to ordinary people when it will be anything but.
“May knows there will be no Brexit dividend for the NHS. On top of a nearly £50bn EU divorce bill, the government has agreed to continue paying into the bloc until 2021 and has promised to keep funding farming subsidies. Added to that is the economic costs of leaving the EU, which the government has acknowledged will make public finances worse – a figure the OBR has put at around £15bn a year.
“By parroting the lies of the hard Brexiteers in her party, May has shown exactly why the Tories cannot be trusted to deliver a Brexit that works for working people or run the NHS.”
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the extra £20bn announced today is “not enough to save our NHS” after eight years of savage Tory cuts.
He said, “People are waiting longer and in pain because of Tory cuts to the NHS. The prime minister couldn’t say today when this will improve and waiting lists will come down.
“If the Conservatives do manage to publish the detail of their insufficient 3.4 per cent increase, then Labour’s fully costed plans to raise taxes for the top 5 per cent and big business will top up NHS spending growth to around the 5 per cent, which is needed.”