Earlier this month the government launched its 10 year Long Term Plan for the NHS. The document outlines lots of plans – including changes to adolescent mental health, early cancer diagnosis, and a technology revolution – but we await details of how they will be implemented.
This is the first 10 year plan since the NHS Plan 2000, which was also accompanied by a significant increase in funding. However, I argue in my latest piece for Progress, the new funding arrangement is unlikely to stretch to cover the Long Term Plan’s ambitions.
“The government promised last June to increase NHS funding by an average of 3.4 per cent each year over the next five years. According to the Long-Term Plan this ‘moves closer to returning to the NHS long-term average funding trend of 3.7 per cent per year since 1948 … This extra spending will need to deal with current pressures and unavoidable demographic change and other costs, as well as new priorities.’
After what The Kings Fund called ‘the largest ever sustained reduction in UK NHS spending as a percentage of GDP’, these aims are certainly ambitious. The NHS has been underfunded and even the 3.4 per cent increase represents continued relative underfunding. Without investing in the NHS at the average level, the government claims to be able to address three huge challenges: the damage done by austerity, the ageing population and the digital transition – with plenty left over for ‘other costs’.”