Chancellor George Osborne has confirmed that the NHS is to get an extra cash injection of some £10 billion between 2014-15 and 2020-21, of which £6 billion will be delivered by the end of 2016-17, with £4.8 billion capital funding every year over the next five years.
The Department of Health says the real terms funding increase will help deliver seven-day services in primary care and in hospitals, and ensure that, by 2021, everyone can access GP services in the evenings and at weekends, with the help of 5,000 extra GP and a £750-million investment in a new national voluntary contract.
The extra cash will also be used to implement the recommendations of the Independent Cancer Taskforce so that, by 2020, patients referred for suspected cancer will have a diagnosis within four weeks. The government is also planning on streaming up to £300 million per year on diagnostics to fund new equipment and additional staff capacity.
An extra £600 million a year will go to mental health services to significantly boost the number of people getting access to talking therapies, while the UK is to invest up to £150 million in a new Dementia Research Institute to accelerate the pace of research and tackle disease progression.
Elsewhere, over £400 million will be invested over eight years in a new ‘science hub’ which will provide Public Health England labs at Harlow, Essex, to help protect the public from threats such as flu and Ebola. The move will see existing facilities at Porton Down and Colindale relocated and integrated into one site.
The Chancellor has allocated £4.8 billion capital funding for health every year for the next five years, which includes cash for a revamp of urgent and emergency care services are further push for care in the community. “New investment of £1 billion in technology will support this transformation and integrate patient records across health and social care by 2020,” the DH said. Over the next 5 years, at least £500 million will be invested in building new hospitals.
A five-year pot of £5 billion is being made available for underpin health research and development across key priorities such as the 100,000 genomes project, research into antimicrobial resistance and investment in the Ross Fund to tackle malaria.
DH budget cut
On the downside, the Department of Health’s own budget is being slashed by 25%, which will see cuts for groups such as Health Education, which funds recruitment, education and training of health professionals, and Public Health England, which plays a critical role in preventative healthcare.
Commenting on the plans, Paul Briddock, director of policy at the Healthcare Financial Management Association, said: “The government has listened to the calls of those on the ground for the pledged money to be front loaded, which will support NHS organisations, the vast majority of which are facing a difficult 2016/17. When other sectors and services are facing cuts, the NHS will be grateful for this additional funding, which will help to meet the additional demands being placed on the NHS.”
But while noting that the commitment to invest nearly £6 billion in the NHS over the next two years gives the health service a “fighting chance”, Rob Webster, the head of the NHS Confederation, also warned that cuts to the DH’s budget “will have a big impact on vital resources”.