Today's Autumn Statement by the Chancellor Philip Hammond includes no extra cash for local NHS trusts facing spiraling deficits and looming cuts to local services.
The Chancellor said in his speech: 'The government, Mr Speaker, has pledged to invest in our NHS and we are delivering on that promise: backing the NHS’ Five Year Forward View plan for the future with £10 billion of additional funding a year by the end of 2020-21.'
But this 'additional' funding was a re-announcement of current plans and was first promised during the General Election campaign after the Liberal Democrats manifesto raised the issue of NHS finance. The Government's version of this funding has been condemned as misleading by the Commons Health select committee chair Dr Sarah Wollaston who recently wrote to the government telling them that they were giving a "false impression that the NHS is awash with cash" and that they had "given the NHS what it asked for" when this was not true and that in fact local NHS trusts faced "overwhelming" financial pressures.
Liberal Democrats in parliament had called for an urgent extra cash injection of £4 billion for health and social care this year, on top of already announced plans.
Meanwhile, according to a recent report by the independent health think tank, the King's Fund, two-thirds of NHS trusts across the country are now in deficit and the trend for the NHS as a whole is going sharply downwards [see King's Fund charts below]. Nothing in today's statement changes this.
Cheltenham Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate Martin Horwood said today: 'Astonishingly the Chancellor barely mentioned the NHS and only then to repeat an earlier funding announcment which has already been exposed as misleading. It is quite clear from independent analysis that there is a mounting financial crisis in the NHS and that two-thirds of local NHS trusts are now deficit - in contrast to the situation under the previous coalition government. We now know this includes Gloucestershire with Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS hospital Trusts alone facing an estimated £24 million pound deficit this year.'
'This poses a direct threat to valued local NHS services like A&E, mental health services and local maternity units' he said. 'Without that extra cash injection local NHS chiefs will be forced into making damaging cuts. I understand that Brexit has made the financial situation much tighter with lower projected growth next year and for years ahead. But the government has found enough money to put off the fuel duty increase and spend welcome billions on infrastructure, so they should have realised that the NHS needed investment too.'
'The time for our local MPs to speak out is now. Most of them have a record of complete loyalty to Theresa May's Brexit government so far - Cheltenham's Conservative MP has voted as the party whips have told him in every single vote. But this Autumn Statement poses a direct threat to valued local NHS services. So now is his moment to break ranks and speak up for and vote for local NHS services.'