The health and care system has suffered from underinvestment, widespread staff shortages and the shock of the pandemic. This has exacerbated the growing care backlog that was evident before the onset of the COVID-19 crisis.
The NHS and social care services need the right support and investment now to tackle the backlog of care, ensure people can access the best possible care and to make the health service more sustainable in the future. The service is being asked to deliver 2.2 per cent productivity growth this year alongside the worst inflation in decades. This is despite historical productivity growth in the NHS being 0.8 per cent.
NHS leaders understand the precarity of the current financial situation facing the country and are committed to playing their role in using their funding in the most effective way.
They are, however, deeply concerned about the impact cuts to public services would have on the NHS and the health of the nation. While they have been pleased to see reports that the NHS budget will be ‘prioritised’ in the context of spending cuts, it is critical that this government doesn’t repeat the mistakes of previous governments in the 2010s when capital budgets were raided to plug holes in day-to-day spending budgets.
Also, this ‘protection’ of the NHS budget must extend to important areas that sit outside the NHS England ring-fence, including local authority budgets which cover social care, public health and other NHS services not funded directly by NHS England. Without this, more people will become more unwell and will have more need for the NHS, costing more in the medium to long term.
Ahead of the Chancellor's Autumn Statement on 17 November, we are calling for action on five key areas.