The head of the NHS is kicking back at government attempts to make it seem as if the £20.5bn of extra funding announced in the budget will improve the health service more than it will, according to reports.
Unite said the Tories are engaged in a “cynical” ploy to persuade the public that they care about the NHS.
NHS England chief executive, Simon Stevens, has been rowing with the government over whether promises the Tories want to make about improvements to care linked to the funding can be kept, an article in the Guardian claims.
Ministers are “deeply irritated” and “fed up” that Stevens is refusing go along with attempts to reassure voters that NHS services will “improve dramatically” because of the extra cash by including guarantees in the five year funding plan.
The government wants the plan to contain pledges that annual improvements will take place in crucial areas such as cancer treatment, operations and A&E care – promises Stevens believes are unachievable.
An NHS leader told the Guardian, “Ministers want all the key targets back to where they used to be, the £1bn annual deficit down to zero and a host of new commitments delivered, all within the 3.4 per cent annual budget rises over the next five years that the £20bn involves.
‘Numbers don’t add up’
“But the numbers, and the whole thing, just don’t add up. You simply can’t get all those improvements on those timescales on 3.4 per cent. It isn’t deliverable. But that’s what the government wants.”
Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said Stevens is right to push back against the government’s demands.
“They are just trying to grab headlines in order to mask the damage years upon years of budget cuts have done to the NHS. The improvement targets are nothing more than a cynical attempt to make voters believe the Tories actually care about the health service,” he said.
Jarrett-Thorpe said that while the extra £20.5bn is welcome, the funds will only relieve some of the pressure on the NHS and its staff.
“The new funding will not resolve growing staffing shortages caused years of real terms pay cuts, unsustainable workloads leading to more risks to the public in some parts of the country, the scrapping of NHS training bursaries and the fall in EU health workers because of Brexit. Nor will it resolve the social care crisis – which is eating up NHS resources at a rate of knots,” he said.
“The truth is that the Tories are not capable of providing the investment and long-term joined-up thinking on public health that the NHS and its patients and staff need. Their only real interest is in privatising services.”
The Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England both denied there was a disagreement over the issue of including guarantees in the funding plan.