Jeremy Hunt has broken NHS funding pledges, report finds

The government has broken its pledges on NHS funding and is misleading the public about how much extra money it is actually putting into the health service, a committee of MPs has said.

In a highly critical report, the House of Commons health select committee accuses Jeremy Hunt and other ministers of giving the cash-strapped NHS “less than would appear to be the case from official pronouncements”.

The cross-party group of MPs refutes the health secretary’s persistent claim the government will have given the NHS in England an extra £8.4bn by 2020-21 compared with 2015-16. That was one of the Conservatives’ key pledges in last year’s general election campaign, and was repeated many times after that by David Cameron and George Osborne while they were still the prime minister and the chancellor.

It claims ministers have in effect performed a sleight of hand by cutting other parts of the Department of Health’s budget, such as public health and NHS staffing, in order to give NHS England itself a big increase in its budget. Critics have previously likened the strategy to “robbing Peter to pay Paul”.

“Whilst the NHS has been treated favourably compared to many other departments, the increase in health funding is less than was promised if assessed by the usual definitions,” said Sarah Wollaston, the Tory MP and ex-GP who chairs the committee.

The report’s analysis of last autumn’s spending review notes that the NHS has received modest budget increases in recent years while most other Whitehall departments have suffered real-terms cuts. But it says: “The funding allocated for the NHS in the spending review is less than would appear to be the case from official pronouncements. We are concerned that the shift in resources, especially from public health, health education, transformation and capital budgets will make it far more difficult to achieve the ambitions set out in the Forward View [the NHS’s own blueprint for how it should modernise by 2020 in order to remain sustainable].”

The report adds: “In our view, the funding announced in the spending review does not meet the government’s commitment to fund the Five Year Forward View.”

Full story in The Guardian 20 July 2016