Responding to the Chancellor's 2023 spring budget, Matthew Taylor chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said:
“The reality is that this budget leaves more questions than it answers when it comes to the NHS.
“On the one hand, there is very welcome news on pensions reform as lifting the lifetime and annual allowance will help incentivise more medical staff to carry out extra shifts – this is vital if we are going to reduce waiting lists.
“Extending the duration of the energy price cap will help prevent further worsening of health outcomes across the country. The increase to the childcare allowance will help many healthcare workers and help the service retain more staff, and the freeze on fuel duty will be good for community nursing staff, so there are some positives.
“But on the other hand, we are facing a staffing crisis in the NHS and this budget does not provide any further clarity on how the government is going to address it.
“We are just two weeks out from the start of the new financial year but don’t yet know the impact of any pay award on the NHS’ already constrained budget. The government and unions remain in talks, and we wait to see if a deal can be reached. The NHS currently has funding for a 3.5% increase next year, but with rumours of a potential pay award of 5% or above, this could leave the NHS with a budget hole of anything up to £2 billion. We are clear that this cannot be funded from within existing budgets as it would almost certainly result in cutbacks to patient care elsewhere.
“There is also nothing in the budget to help tackle the estates maintenance backlog; repairs are estimated to cost £10.2bn which if left unaddressed will undermine efforts to reduce waiting lists. There is still little clarity over social care funding, and while a small amount of funding for suicide prevention charities is welcome, there is little else for mental health services.
“Every NHS leader in the country was also hoping for the publication of the long-awaited workforce plan. The government should be credited for committing to publish the plan, but with 124,000 vacancies this is now long overdue. We need to see that plan shortly and it needs to be fully funded. Without this, the NHS will be in permanent crisis management mode, and we need to offer NHS staff hope that this longstanding issue will be addressed.”