Chancellor Philip Hammond boosted growth projections and forecast falling inflation for the UK in his Spring Statement, but health care leaders lamented his lack of action on addressing the NHS crisis.
It was widely hoped that the Chancellor would use his Spring Statement to deliver a mini budget, with the promise of extra funds to help NHS trusts - expected to book an overall deficit of close to £1 billion for the year - deal with current workforce, financial and demand challenges.
However, there was no mention of any extra cash for the health service, nor social care.
In response, Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell accused Hammond of “astounding complacency”.
“We face – in every public service – a crisis on a scale we’ve never seen before. Does the Chancellor really believe the NHS can wait another eight months for the life-saving funds it needs?” he argued.
The NHS Confederation called the Statement “a missed opportunity, giving no clear signal that the government is going to act to address the crisis in our NHS and care system.”
"The twin tasks facing the Chancellor therefore remain - support NHS and the care services to help them deal with intolerable pressures today, and lay out a comprehensive plan to create a sustainable NHS and social care system for the next 10 to 15 years,” noted chief executive Niall Dickson.
“It is time for some political courage. We cannot go on as we are with unsafe services, lives lost and lives ruined, because we are unwilling to invest. And with that the public agrees.”
Also responding to the Statement, Hitesh Dodhia, superintendent pharmacist at PharmacyOutlet.co.uk, said: “With pharmacies closing and the NHS under greater strain than ever, Philip Hammond ought to have done more to allay concerns that people’s access to healthcare is going to suffer.
“We can only hope that Hammond's claims that more NHS funding will be made available 'if management and unions can reach a deal' proves true, although it certainly remains a big if.”
“The Chancellor might have touted today’s Spring Statement as success story, with the nation’s debt finally falling. But at what cost? The health and care sectors are proof that cuts in public spending are affecting vital services relied upon by millions across the UK, and yet Philip Hammond did little to offer any clear indication or commitment to help tackle this issue through greater NHS funding,” said Rohit Patni, chief executive and co-founder of WeMa Life.
Last month data released by NHS Improvement showed that healthcare providers failed in aggregate to achieve the waiting time standard for 14 of 15 key diagnostic tests, as well as the 85 percent target for 62 day wait for first treatment following an urgent GP referral, with 82.9 percent recorded and the 95 percent four-hour A&E standard, with just 89.5 percent achieved.
Also, bed occupancy remains at dangerous levels and the NHS has 100,000 vacant posts to fill.
The figures reflect the “intolerable pressure” on the system, according to the NHS Confederation, which also warns: “We cannot go on as we are with unsafe services, lives lost and lives ruined”.