The extra money announced by the chancellor in the Budget for the NHS in England is not enough, health service bosses say.
Philip Hammond announced an immediate £350m boost for this winter followed by £1.6bn more next year for the front line above the rise already planned.
The chancellor described it as an “exceptional” measure, which recognised the pressures the service was under.
But NHS leaders have already warned waiting times will continue to worsen.
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NHS bosses offer lukewarm reaction
The Budget announcement comes after independent experts had called for £4bn extra next year and NHS England boss Simon Stevens had warned ministers the public expected increased investment following claims made during the EU referendum that the NHS would benefit financially from Brexit.
Mr Stevens said without action waiting times for key services would continue to worsen.
Responding to the Budget, NHS England chairman Sir Malcolm Grant said the extra money would go only “some way towards filling the accepted funding cap”.
And he said the country could “no longer avoid the difficult debate” about what the health service could deliver for patients.
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents health service managers, said “tough choices and trade offs” would now need to be made.
“It is difficult to see how the NHS can deliver everything,” he added.
The chancellor’s plan
In total, Mr Hammond announced an extra £2.8bn of funding over the next three years.
- £350m this year
- £1.6bn in 2018-19
- £850m in 2019-20
That is on top of the rises already set out by the government’s spending plans made in 2015, which would have seen the front-line budget rise by £9bn in cash terms to nearly £116bn.
Mr Hammond described the NHS as one of the country’s “greatest institutions”, but said he recognised it was “under pressure”.
He said that was why he was taking the exceptional step of announcing extra funding outside of the formal spending review process.
“We will always back it,” he told MPs.
He also said any pay rises for NHS staff next year – the 1% cap is being lifted – would not need to come from the front-line budget.
“Nurses deserve our deepest gratitude.”
Why many think it’s not enough
Some will say the reaction of those in the health sector is to be expected – they are never satisfied they have enough money.
But a look back at the funding history of the NHS shows they have a point.
Traditionally the health budget has got an extra 4% a year above inflation to help it cope with the ageing population and cost of new drugs and treatments.
Since 2010 that figure has dropped to close to 1% – and this extra money does little to improve that.
Those working in accident and emergency units point out that the £350m for this winter could easily be swallowed up by spending on agency staff.
It is why staff on the front line are still predicting rising waiting times for treatment.