According to a new study, the NHS budget in England will be worth £3.5bn lower this year due to inflation than it was last year. This comes at a time when the service is preparing for one of its toughest winters ever.
The Health Foundation discovered that a larger-than-anticipated price increase resulted in a significant reduction in funding this year.Another cut is expected next year.
The think tank said that under current plans NHS England departments resource spending will be £161bn by 2023-24. This is ££3.5bn lower than in 2022-23, in real terms. This amounts to a 2.1% decrease.
The report said that the planned funding would result in a real-terms reduction of £1bn by 2024-25, compared to 2023-24.
The analysis was made after the UK Government chose not to provide extra funding for NHS England in last month’s Autumn statement.
Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister of India, has stated that one of his “people’s priority” is to reduce waiting lists for non urgent care by the upcoming election. The backlog of patients has increased in recent months. Official figures show that there are now a record number of 7.75mn people waiting for treatment.
After a wave industrial action by healthcare workers from December 2022, health leaders have warned that the service is in crisis and asked for an urgent cash injection.
The cancellation of 1.2 million operations and appointments has been caused by the strikes of doctors, nurses and other employees.
After failing to reach an agreement with the ministers on a pay increase, junior doctors in England have announced that they will walk out in December and in January for another nine days.
Even before the 2022 strikes, the NHS struggled to reduce the impact of inflation on its budget.
The total health expenditure in England was £182bn in 2022-2023. According to the Health Foundation this figure will increase to £190bn by 2024-25. “But higher than expected inflation would mean that, on current planning, this would represent a real terms reduction in funding”.
The think-tank stated that while total health expenditures have increased due to the Covid-19 epidemic, the plans for the future “are far less generous”.
It added that as a result of this, the average growth in funding for this Parliament could “fall below the long-term median”.
Anita Charlesworth is the director of the REAL centre and research at the Health Foundation. Maintaining the spending plans for this year and next will be challenging, regardless of the situation. Considering the post-Covid backlogs, ongoing industrial actions, and low productivity due to the pandemic, it is difficult to see how they can be sustained.
She added, “The next government will face incredibly difficult decisions–either to limit what the NHS is able to do or to increase funding on a long-term basis against the backdrop of fiscal stress.”
The Department of Health and Social Care announced that NHS funding, including depreciation, is still increasing at a record level. The autumn statement raised the NHS budget by over £1 billion for 2023-2024.In 2024/25 we will invest a record £165.9billion, including £3.3billion to improve the performance of urgent and emergency care, elective and primary health care to pre-pandemic standards.